© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Birds drink from receding waters near Lone Rock Beach, a popular recreation area that used to be underwater, at Lake Powell. REUTERS / Caitlin Ochs
(This May 3 story amends the acre conversion to 1.23 million liters, not 1.48 million liters, in paragraph 5)
By Daniel Trotta
(CNN) – U.S. officials on Tuesday announced unprecedented measures to raise water levels at Lake Powell, a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River, so low that it endangers marine production. electricity of seven western states.
Amid prolonged drought exacerbated by climate change, the Bureau of Reclamation will release an additional 500,000 acres (616.7 million cubic meters) of water this year from the Volcanic Gorge Reservoir upstream of the Wyoming border. -Utah will flow into Lake Powell.
Officials say another 480,000 acres that are not released downstream will be kept in a man-made lake on the Utah-Arizona border.
“We’ve never taken this step before in the Colorado River basin, but the conditions we see today and the risk,” said Tanya Trujillo, assistant secretary for water and science at the Interior Department. The potential we see on the horizon requires us to act quickly.” told reporters.
One acre, about 326,000 gallons (1.23 million liters), is enough water to supply one or two households for a year.
An additional 980,000 acres in Lake Powell, formed when the Colorado River was built in northern Arizona in the 1960s, will help sustain hydroelectricity production of the Glen Canyon Dam, lifting the reservoir’s record-low surface. up 16 feet (4.88 meters), the bureau said.
If Lake Powell, the United States’ second-largest reservoir, falls another 32 feet, the 1,320-megawatt plant will not be able to generate electricity for millions of people in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Nebraska.
The western United States has experienced its driest period on record in two decades. Some experts say drought is inappropriate because it suggests conditions will return to normal.
“We’re never going to see these reservoirs fill up again in our lifetimes,” said Denise Perry, a professor at Northern Arizona University’s School of Earth and Sustainability.
The new measures will put additional strain on Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, which is located downstream from Lake Powell and is also at a record low. Lake Mead, formed by the Hoover Dam in the 1930s and crucial to 25 million people’s water supplies, has gotten so low that a human remains, believed to be from the 1980s, has been found. found on the receding coast on Sunday.