Here’s what feds think will happen with Lake Powell’s water level this year

Bureau of Reclamation now says that Lake Powell will receive just 7.6 million acre-feet of water, down from it’s earlier estimate of 9.4 million acre-feet.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Boaters recreate on Lake Powell near Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Ariz. on Thursday, July 13, 2023. The Bureau of Reclamation reported that Lake Powell will receive 2 million acre-feet less water than originally forecasted.

With below-average precipitation so far this winter, federal officials say that Lake Powell will get 2 million acre-feet less water than they originally thought.

An acre-foot is enough water to flood an acre of land one foot deep. In Utah, an acre-foot of water is enough to supply two single-family permanent residences for a year, according to the Division of Water Rights.

In October of this year, the Bureau of Reclamation — the agency that oversees water projects nationwide — reported that between October 2023 and September 2024, an estimated 9.4 million acre-feet of water would flow into Lake Powell.

This month, they’ve revised their estimate. Reclamation now says that Lake Powell will receive just 7.6 million acre-feet of water in that time frame. That’s 79% of the historical average runoff between 1991 and 2020.

Last year, Lake Powell received a whopping 12 million acre-feet of water from last winter’s record-breaking snowpack, which saved the reservoir from reaching drastically low levels. But even after that picture-perfect runoff, Lake Powell stands at just 35% full.

A below-average runoff this year could mean that reservoirs in Colorado and Wyoming would have to release water downstream to keep the lake from hitting levels that would threaten the Glen Canyon Dam’s energy generation and make delivering water to Arizona, California and Nevada nearly impossible. Colorado River water managers have implemented similar emergency measures in recent years to keep Lake Powell from reaching crisis levels.

Utah reaches its typical peak snowpack in early April, and the state gets about 95% of its water supply from snow.