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Another sign of drought: Low Lake Powell water release

Julie Jacobson/ Associated Press file photo

The Bureau of Reclamation announced it will keep more water in Lake Powell, which will lower the water level of Lake Mead by about 8 feet in 2014. The high-water mark this year for Lake Mead is seen at Hoover Dam near Boulder City, Nev., in this April 16 photo.

By Paige Jones
Herald Staff Writer

A record low amount of water will be released from Lake Powell into Lake Mead next year stemming from the continuous drought and declining supplies.

About 7.48 million acre-feet of water will be discharged from the lake, a 705,000 acre-feet decrease from last year’s 8.2 million acre-feet, according to the Bureau of Reclamation website.

The decline is enough to supply 1.5 million households with water for one year. One acre-foot can sustain 2½ households per year, according to Denver Water.

However, Lake Powell’s reduced water release will not have a large impact on towns or cities. Lake Mead will continue to operate under normal conditions in 2014 to meet the needs of Colorado River Basin residents, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

Nonetheless, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., advised Coloradans to conserve water in light of dire projections of the Colorado River’s declining water supply.

“Make every drop count: Only use what you need and make water conservation a priority,” he said in a news release.

Lake Powell is the second-largest human-made reservoir on the Colorado River, situated on the border of Arizona and Utah. Water from the lake flows through the Grand Canyon into Nevada’s Lake Mead, which supplies water to 36 million people in seven states.

This will be Lake Powell’s lowest annual release since it was filled in the 1960s. As a result, the water level of Lake Mead is expected to drop 8 feet in 2014, the Bureau of Reclamation said.

Lake Powell’s water capacity depends on snowfall from the mountains.

“With a good winter snowpack next year, the outlook could change significantly as it did in 2011, but we also need to be prepared for a drought,” the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Regional Director Terry Fulp said in a statement.

Lake Powell’s water levels rose in 2011 with additional snowfall but dropped again in 2012 with a mild winter, according to the National Park Service.

The Bureau of Reclamation delivered this announcement almost one month after another study forecast a 50-year limit on the Colorado River’s supply, citing climate change and population growth as contributing factors.

Although the study proposed a slew of solutions including water conservation and reuse, a final plan of action has yet to be determined as the study continues to gather local input and scientific information.

“(This) is a reminder that every Coloradan has a role to play in keeping the Colorado River strong,” Udall said in his news release.

Paige Jones is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. Reach her at pjones@durangoherald.com.

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