Today’s Image of the Day from the European Space Agency features Lake Powell, the second largest manmade reservoir in the United States. After decades of drought, the water levels in Lake Powell have reached their lowest point since the lake’s creation more than 50 years ago.
According to ESA, the lake provides water to approximately 40 million people, irrigates over 2.2 million hectares of land, and has the capacity to generate more than 4,200 megawatts of hydropower electricity.
Last month, the water elevation in Lake Powell dropped to “an astonishing 1,074 m above sea level – the lowest the lake has been since it was filled in 1980,” reports ESA.
“Satellite images allow us to take a closer look at the dwindling water levels of the lake amidst the climate crisis.”
ESA notes that the drop in water levels comes as hotter temperatures and falling water levels left a smaller amount of water flowing through the Colorado River. “The peak inflow to Lake Powell occurs in mid-to-late spring, as the winter snow in the Rocky Mountains melts.”
Furthermore, a report from the US Geological Survey revealed that Lake Powell has lost nearly seven percent of its potential storage capacity. This limited storage capacity is due to sediments from the Colorado and San Juan Rivers, which settle at the bottom of the reservoir and reduce the amount of water it can hold.
ESA says that the current water elevation level in Lake Powell is just a few meters from what is considered the “minimum power pool” – the level at which Glen Canyon Dam is able to generate hydroelectric power. If the lake continues to drop, it could soon hit a “deadpool.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Spring Outlook for the US, nearly 60 percent of the continental United States is experiencing drought. These conditions are likely to persist through at least June, putting a major strain on water supplies.
Image Credit: ESA