Lake Powell outlook “substantially worse” than predictions after water level falls below target elevation

Arelatively dry February pushed Lake Powell below a key water level for the first time since the lake was considered “full” in 1980, and has led to deeper projected drops over the next two years.

On Tuesday, the lake fell below 3,525 feet above sea level, a key target elevation that water managers have been trying to keep Powell above because it provides a buffer from the minimum level at which Glen Canyon Dam can generate power. Previous forecasts showed this was possible and the Bureau of Reclamation announced on March 4 that a temporary drop below 3,525 feet was on its way.

It comes as the latest monthly report from the Bureau outlines the potential for Powell to hit even lower levels during the next two years. That has water watchers worried, and businesses that depend on water closer to home could be impacted. “We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do; we might not even be able to open this season,” said Eric Loken, head of operations at Blue Mesa’s Elk Creek Marina, which his family has operated for more than 30 years. “The current forecast is — if we’re lucky we might have a two-and-a-half-month season.”

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