The significance of the dwindling supply in both reservoirs cannot be overstated. Water flowing down the Colorado River fills the two reservoirs, which are part of a river system that supplies over 40 million people living across seven Western states and Mexico.
John Fleck, the director of the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico, told Lake Powell might not be the larger of the two major Colorado River reservoirs, but it plays a significant role in the West’s water crisis.
“The bottom dropping out on Lake Powell may be the more serious challenge, because a buffer in Lake Powell allows you to move water down to Lake Mead to make up for the shortcomings,” said Fleck.
Much like Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, Lake Powell’s plunging water level threatens Glen Canyon Dam’s capacity to produce hydropower for many states including Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Nebraska.
And if the next major study in August from the Bureau of Reclamation projects an even worse water level decline in both Lake Powell and Lake Mead, it would trigger the first-ever shortage declaration on the Colorado River, meaning many communities would begin to see their water supply significantly slashed next year.
While major cities may be prepared for the current drought-fueled water shortage, Fleck said the rapidly warming climate may challenge their emergency preparedness.
“Over time, cities are going to need to conserve more and more water,” he said, “and that doesn’t get any easier with climate change.”
CNN’s Drew Kann contributed to this report.Source link