Lake Powell well below capacity

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A view of Lake Powell, where water from the Yampa, Green and Colorado rivers is stored. St. George and Utah state officials are proposing to spend about $400 million to pump water out of Lake Powell and pipe it 120 miles west to their growing communities.

More than 25 million people depend on Colorado River water, which includes the waters of the Yampa and Green rivers. The Yampa merges with the Green in Western Colorado.

The state of Colorado is obligated to send the majority of the water that springs up in tributaries of the Colorado and Green rivers downstream to the lower basin states of Nevada, Arizona and California. The water obligated to the lower basin is stored in Lake Powell. Accordingly, the status of Lake Powell is critical to Coloradans in terms of meeting their obligation to lower basin states and protecting their own ability to use more water.

Heading into the spring and summer of 2006, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials predicted that dwindling snowmelt would fill Lake Powell to only 44 percent of its capacity. Tom Ryan of the Bureau of Reclamation said the level of Lake Powell probably would continue to decline until April 2007.

Snowmelt occurred earlier than usual in the upper Colorado River basin this spring, Ryan said. Lake Powell's inflow hit 103 percent of average in April, but the water pouring into the vast reservoir slipped to 89 percent of average in May and just 53 percent of average in June.

Lake Powell reached a seasonal peak of 3,611 feet in elevation, about 89 feet below the full mark. Water storage on July 11 was 12.6 million acre-feet, or 52 percent of capacity.

- Tom Ross

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