Lake Powell is at its lowest level in 30 years, the result of scant snow melt and heavy demand from three Western states that look to it for drinking water.
Lake Powell, a 252-square-mile artificial lake created by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Arizona-Utah border, is down 87 feet from its highest level. The last time levels were so low was in 1973, when the reservoir was still filling behind the dam.
``It's a continuing downward spiral and each month's forecast gets more depressing,'' said Barry Wirth, a regional spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that manages the reservoir. ``We have all fingers and toes crossed for a good storm.''
Water levels are expected to dip five more feet before late March, when mountain snow runoff is expected to start filling the lake again.
The lake has been hard hit by record-low flows from the Colorado River and drought-driven demand from Arizona, Nevada and California. Colorado has also been hurt by drought, so it has been releasing the minimum required amount of water to Powell and the lower basin states.
``They're using every drop twice if they can,'' Wirth said.
A total of 18.5 million acre-feet of water has come in over the last three years, but reservoir managers are required to release a prescribed amount. They've released 24.7 million acre-feet over the same three-year period.
The reservoir currently holds more than 4 trillion gallons not enough to last even two years for the states that use the water.
``Our focus is to continue to meet minimum deliveries,'' Wirth said, adding that dry conditions are forcing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to draw heavily on stored water.