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Lake Powell to temporarily decline below 3,525 feet

The Bureau of Reclamation said a very dry January and February eroded the Colorado River Basin’s snowpack.

LAKE POWELL, Ariz. — Lake Powell will decline below 3,525 feet in elevation in the near future, announced the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Bureau of Reclamation said the drop is temporary and reflects the "abnormally dry winter season."

Lake Powell’s elevation is expected to recover above 3,525 feet through the course of the spring runoff season, likely in May, according to the Bureau. 

The Bureau, Upper Division States, and Upper Colorado River Commission are preparing additional measures to implement later this year to help maintain elevation 3,525 feet at Lake Powell.

"This year the Colorado River Basin has experienced extremely variable conditions with a record high snowpack one month, followed by weeks without snow," said Bureau of Reclamation Acting Commissioner David Palumbo. "This variable hydrology and a warmer, drier west have drastically impacted our operations and we are faced with the urgent need to manage in the moment."

"A dry January and February eroded the Colorado River Basin’s snowpack, decreasing Lake Powell’s projected unregulated inflow forecast for water year 2022 by approximately 2.2 million acre-feet from January through February," said a release from the Bureau of Reclamation. "As a result, the February 24 Month Study projections show Lake Powell potentially dropping two to three feet below 3,525 feet in March."

Credit: Bureau of Reclamation

"Reclamation is not planning to take further action to address this temporary dip below 3,525 feet because the spring runoff will resolve the deficit in the short term," said Bureau of Reclamation Upper Colorado Basin Regional Director Wayne Pullan. "However, our work is not done. Lake Powell is projected to drop below elevation 3,525 feet again later this year. Reclamation and the Upper Division States continue to collaborate with stakeholders and partners to develop and implement additional actions later this year if appropriate."

"We appreciate the collaboration among Reclamation and the Upper Basin States at this critical time to develop the 2022 Drought Response Operations Agreement Operations Plan. We are optimistic these actions will provide additional protection to critical elevations in Lake Powell," said Chuck Cullom, Executive Director of the Upper Colorado River Commission.  

RELATED: Scorched Earth: The repercussions of Lake Mead's water shortage

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