Lake Powell’s water level is rising after a snowy winter

The total water area has increased by 50% compared to July 2022.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune) The water content of Lake Powell has increased by about 50% compared to last year. Even as of March, the difference depicted in these satellite images is striking. But that doesn’t mean the drought is over.

Lake Powell’s water content is up about 50% from a year ago, and experts say this is likely due to inflows from snowmelt nearly doubling and rainfall also increasing.

After a wet winter, the lake recorded a nearly 3 million acre-feet increase in water compared to July 2022, along with an elevation gain of about 50 feet. That’s more than originally forecast, said Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network.

Since March, melting snow has filled Lake Powell with 4.3 million acres of water. This means the lake can begin to replenish the depleted reservoirs around it, Roerink said. But that doesn’t mean the drought is over.

“The big winter provided a little buffer,” he said. “But it will still be a question of whether that will take us to the summer of 2027 or even the summer of 2026.”

Other environmental aspects besides snowmelt could affect water flow, he said, including soil moisture levels, evaporation and albedo effects. Unpredictable weather conditions could also rapidly alter Utah’s water content.

But this summer has provided hydrologists and water conservationists in Utah with an opportunity to figure out how to successfully conserve water for decades to come, Roerink said.

“We need to abandon 20th-century ideas about water management,” he said. “It’s going to be painful, but if we don’t start adjusting now, it’s only going to get more painful.”

Justin Scaccy

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