The new modeling shows a 3% chance that Lake Powell, which is located on the Colorado River from northern Arizona to southern Utah, could drop below the minimum level needed to allow the lake’s Glen Canyon Dam to generate hydroelectricity next year.
In 2023, the chance of a shutdown grows to 34%, according to the projection.
“The latest outlook for Lake Powell is troubling,” said Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin Regional Director Wayne Pullan in a news release. “This highlights the importance of continuing to work collaboratively with the Basin States, Tribes and other partners toward solutions.”
The projections for water levels in Lake Mead, which provides water to 25 million people in the West, are also bleak as climate change, drought and poor runoff continue to sap the river’s supply.
There is also a greater than 1-in-5 chance that water levels in Lake Mead will fall below 1,000 feet above sea level in 2025. That is barely 100 feet above what is considered “dead pool,” the level at which water can no longer flow through Hoover Dam.
Drought is evaporating water resources
The Colorado River Basin and much of the Southwest are in the midst of a climate change-fueled megadrought, which has stretched on for more than 20 years.
A study published in the journal Science in 2020 found that the period from 2000-2018 was the driest 19-year stretch since the late 1500s.
California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico experienced exceptional drought since 2020, NOAA’s study shows. It found that the current drought is expected to continue into 2022 and perhaps beyond.
CNN’s Rachel Ramirez and Jon Passantino contributed to this report.