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Lake Powell, UT — Drought Drains Lake Powell and May Leave the West in the Dark

June 9, 2005

Lake Powell has been pounded by a 6 year dry spell and higher temperatures linked to global warming, dropping water levels over 100 feet, and reducing total water reserves in the lake over 50%. Formed by the Glen Canyon dam on the Colorado River, Lake Powell spans the border between Utah and Arizona and is a major source of water and electricity.

Thanks to decreased snow runoff from the Colorado Rockies into the Colorado River and increased evaporation as temperatures rise, water levels have dropped so low that the area's electricity supply is in peril. Powell's waters cool the generators at the mammoth Navajo Generating Station. If water levels continue to drop, the plant's intake conduit could be above the water level, leaving it exposed and unable to run. Without the hydroelectric generators, the area will be hit with serious power shortages and possibly blackouts.

Energy from these generators, including Lake Powell's, is a major source of power for the entire southwest. Millions of dollars may soon have to be spent to fix this problem. Hoover Dam's impressive hydroelectric generators that power the glitter on the famous Las Vegas strip far downstream could also be at risk if water levels don't rise soon. Eventually, lower water levels could impact farms as far away as Southern California. Homeowners will feel the heat, too. The Colorado River supplies water to 1 million households a year in California, including 70% of the taps in San Diego County.