Dwindling Water Levels of Lake Powell 

by | Apr 11, 2022

An animated gif of this image can be viewed on the Earth Imaging Journal homepage at www.eijournal.com. (Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018-22), processed by ESA)

After decades of drought, water levels in Lake Powell, the second-largest human-made reservoir in the United States, have shrunk to its lowest level since it was created more than 50 years ago, threatening millions of people who rely on its water supply. Satellite images allow us to take a closer look at the dwindling water levels of the lake amidst the climate crisis.

Straddling the border of southeast Utah and northeast Arizona, Lake Powell is an important reservoir in the Colorado River Basin. The Colorado River, which Lake Powell flows through, was dammed at Glen Canyon in the early 1960s. The lake provides water to approximately 40 million people, irrigates more than 2.2 million hectares of land and has the capacity to generate more than 4,200 megawatts of hydropower electricity.

In mid-March 2022, Lake Powell's elevation dropped to an astonishing 1,074 meters above sea level”the lowest the lake has been since it was filled in 1980. This drastic drop in water levels is documented in natural-color images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission.

The area pictured shows the surface-area changes of the reservoir near Bullfrog Marina, approximately 90 kilometers north from Glen Canyon Dam, between March 2018 and March 2022. Dry conditions and falling water levels are unmistakable in the image captured on March 18, 2022, compared to the 2018 shoreline outlined in the image in yellow.

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