How Much Will Lake Powell Rise This Year?

Former AGW poster child Lake Powell water levels have been rising rapidly over the last few years.

There is well above average snowpack across most of the Colorado/Green River drainage. Inflows into Lake Powell will be very large, so the big question will be how much they decide to let out to fill Lake Mead.

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39 Responses to How Much Will Lake Powell Rise This Year?

  1. Mike Davis says:

    They changed their maximum level for those two lakes. Unless it is an exceptionally wet year and they are restricting the out flow to prevent flooding I doubt the water level will remain above 3600. Lake Mead will never be filled again to the levels I experienced during the 50+ years I lived near there.

  2. Andy Weiss says:

    It would appear that the alarmists will have very little to whne about, concerning this upcoming Western melt season.

  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Powell is still too low to use the boat ramps at most of the marinas. You’re looking at bottoming fluctuations, and calling them good, when even the “steep increase” doesn’t get the lake back where it needs to be.

    • The water is up 60 feet,. Envirowhackos complain no matter what the water level is. Do you think you could drown in 350 feet of water?

      • Ed Darrell says:

        You can drown in 16 pints of water. Nice bait and switch, there.

        You said Lake Powell is up dramatically, which is true, with the implicit claim that global warming predictions are in error because, we might presume though you don’t say, somebody said Lake Powell’s decline is related to global warming.

        I point out that Lake Powell isn’t up to what is considered it’s low levels, yet.

        Can you deny global warming in 350 feet of Lake Powell? No.

      • suyts says:

        lol, global warming is multi-talented. It causes monsoons and dries lakes……. Ed, people using water isn’t typically called “global warming”.

      • Ed Darrell says:

        Only problem with your analysis: Lake Powell belongs to the Upper Colorado River Authority allocations; both Phoenix and LA get their allocations from the lower river compact.

        You know, instead of prattling on without a great clue about what’s going on with Lakes Powell and Mead, one could read up on the serious drought and climate change problems that face the lakes, and the managers of the Colorado River and its water — like this Scripps Institute study. Increasing population certainly poses problems, but there is good research that finds most of the problem is attributable to long-term changes in snowpack from climate change, over the past 50 years, not just a season or two.

        • What are you talking about? Any water that makes it to the Lower Colorado goes through Lake Powell. The Colorado drainage has been having record snow pack in recent years.

      • Ed Darrell says:

        suyts, people mistaking climate change-caused drought for simple water usage isn’t uncommon, either — lots of people do it, and look foolish with Bathtub Ring Around the Lake.

        But of course, they err, too.

        We might hope people could learn from “JoNova’s” errors.

      • Ed Darrell says:

        Some of us have been watching Powell for a lot longer than a couple of years, Steve. There is a long-term problem. Record snow packs for two years don’t counter the previous seven years’ drought.

        Frankly, it’s good news that there’s been good snow recently. From a water management view, it’s not enough good news to get excited about. Lake Powell is still in serious trouble. As you know, when the lake is lower, the increases in elevation of the surface can be dramatic. It takes a lot less water to make a dramatic rise in the bottoms of those old canyons.

        But as your sources reveal, boat launch sites that had been wet and usable almost since Lake Powell was first formed, now are still unusable, some lacking 50 or 60 feet of water. The lake is about as low as it can be and still be called a reservoir. The dramatic rise in lake elevation does not reflect an equally dramatic rise in the volume of water.

        Out of the last four snow years, two have been above average in snowpack, two below. 2010, one year ago, was dramatically below average. It’s too early to claim the drought broken.

        • Ed, I have been watching Lake Powell since they started filling it. Do you have a copy of Elliott Porter’s Glen Canyon Photo Book?

          I used to go cliff diving there almost every summer weekend in the late 1980s.

      • Ed Darrell says:

        Pay attention to these notes at your source, too:

        During [Water Year] WY 2011, water storage has fallen by 2,529,770 [Acre Feet] AF and total outflows have exceeded total inflows by 2,436,470 AF

        Reservoirs above Lake Powell are currently at 76.56% of capacity.

        Inflows for WY 2011 are 108.68% of WY 2010. Rivers feeding Lake Powell are running at 93.66% of the Apr 19th avg.

        And don’t forget 2010 was a below-average snow pack year.

        River flows into the Upper Colorado look decent this year on average, but that masks the real story. Of seven stations measuring flow from seven tributaries (including the Colorado itself), three are above average, four are average or below. The San Juan River near Bluff, Utah, is flowing at only 15.6% its average flow for the date. I thought you said there was record snow pack?

    • Ed Darrell says:

      Steve, cliff diving at Powell is not a good idea now, nor has it been for several years, at most sites.

      I’m not sure what it says that you’re familiar with the area, and yet appear not to acknowledge the drought conditions of the lake.

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    What are you talking about? Any water that makes it to the Lower Colorado goes through Lake Powell. The Colorado drainage has been having record snow pack in recent years.

    Record snow in 2011, near-record lack of snow, 2010. You should have said “recent year.”

    Yes, almost any water that goes to the lower river must make it through Lake Powell (there are a few small tributaries below Lee’s Ferry). But the waters of the Colorado are divided between the upper and lower basin states. Lake Powell water belongs to the upper states, not to Los Angeles, not to Phoenix. To the extent that the legal requirement is that Powell’s waters be released to the lower part of the river, that water is denied to the upper basin states.

    It’s a complex dance of water allocation, made more difficult by the fact that when the allocations were made in the early part of the 20th century the Colorado was flowing at well-above average flows, but the legal beagles didn’t know it.

    The river was over-allocated then. Legally, the upper states, including Utah and Wyoming, have no claim on the water if they can’t keep it from flowing into Mead. Lake Powell is as much a legal requirement of the compacts as it is a water storage device.

    Western water law is complex and sometimes arcane. Global warming makes it tougher, and a one-year increase in snowpack doesn’t get any state out of the legal wilderness, let alone make a call that the drought evidenced over the past two decades has been broken.

    Don’t confuse January’s weather with the climate of the Colorado Plateau.

  5. Al Gored says:

    Ed Darrell… “The San Juan River near Bluff, Utah, is flowing at only 15.6% its average flow for the date.”

    You sure cherry picked that one.

    I don’t know that area but could that low stream flow at that date be related to cooler than normal temperatures.

    We’ve got might low flows here for the date but tons of snow ready to flow when spring gets rolling.

    • Ed Darrell says:

      There are seven streams recorded. The cherry picking is in picking the ones above average — 57% of the streams are NOT above average.

      Bluff is in southern Utah. Warmer temps, not cooler ones. No, cooler temperatures are not delaying snow melt. There’s a drought on in the Colorado Plateau.

      You could study the situation instead of making conjecture.

      • Paul H says:


        Snowpack is 21% above average for this time of year above Lake Powell. What effect do you think this will have on levels come the summer?

      • suyts says:

        Ed, I think I see the problem. You mistake normal weather events for some sort of climatic difficulty. The Colorado, with or without Lake Powell has always fed and ran through an area many of us call a desert. The very definition of a desert meets the criteria of unusually long dry spells interspersed with unusually wet spells.

        You say 57% of the streams are not above average. That means 43% is. How many are running at average? WTG mr. half empty!

      • Ed Darrell says:

        2010 was a lower-than average snow year. You’re working off of a less-than-one-year trend.

      • Al Gored says:

        Ed… no matter how you want to spin it, your use of by far the lowest flow rate as your only example is the definition of cherry picking.

        Did you think nobody would check your source?

        By including the 100% one you could say that 57% were “NOT above average.” That is true.

        But by including that stat I can also say that 57% were NOT below average.

        Whatever else you may be trying to say, in this case there is no denying that you did indeed cherry pick that example, that you did carefully word your meaningless comment about 57% to create false support for it, and that therefore whatever you write here cannot be taken at face value.

        Also. “You claim there’s a surplus of water, and you accuse me of cherrypicking?”

        I never claimed or even hinted at that. Try reading carefully.

        But yes, I not only accuse you of cherry picking, I just proved that you did using your own words.

        “You now claim that 57% is not a majority?”

        No I didn’t. You just made that up.

        Like I said, you could work in the AGW crisis industry using those tricks.

      • Ed Darrell says:

        Paul, 21% above average snow pack in the upper reaches of the upper basin won’t get Lake Powell back to full this summer. The press release advises that it allows no severe cuts to water released to Lake Mead.

        What effect did you hope for?

    • Al Gored says:

      me site updates

      Ed Darrell says:
      April 20, 2011 at 9:21 am

      “There are seven streams recorded. The cherry picking is in picking the ones above average — 57% of the streams are NOT above average.”

      Nice try Ed. Here are the seven stats from your source, in order of their flow rates (100% = average):


      LOL. And you claim that cherry picking the last one as your example was not cherry picking.

      And your other bogus statistic that ‘57%’ of these seven were not above normal is another classic. 57% were also not below normal.

      You should consider employment in the AGW crisis industry.

      • Al Gored says:

        Oops… ‘me site updates’ should be there…

      • Ed Darrell says:

        Look. In the past four years, two have been below average in snowpack, two above average. In the past four years, three have been, over the water year, below average. The line on the chart at the top of this thing is going down.

        You claim there’s a surplus of water, and you accuse me of cherrypicking? I merely pointed out that the surplus is not region-wide — and that the area below average is way, way below average. You deny that?

        You now claim that 57% is not a majority?

        Twain was right, yes?

  6. Mike Davis says:

    This is a good example of the problems with Climatology. They use a rolling multi year average to determine if a trend exists. There are longer term historic records that would give them a clue of conditions to expect if they would take the time to study them. In the mid 80s they had to raise the gates on the overflow at Lake Mead and the result was flooding down stream. that resulted in lowering the level of the lake to maintain a larger extreme water flow.
    If memory serves only 130% of average annual river flow is allocated from the Colorado river.
    Having lived for 50+ years in the desert south west close to Lake Mead I can say with certainty that the desert is not a land of averages but a land of extremes that makes average a fairy tale. A one hundred year flood can happen three times in one year or skip many years. The name “Hundred Year” is based on averages not reality!
    A one hundred year rain in the desert in a good rain in the region I now live. The 3+ inches we received last week equaled the average for a year in Southern Nevada.

  7. Paul H says:

    Perhaps we need to recap on a few points :-

    According to NASA

    1)A century of river flow records combined with an additional four to five centuries of tree-ring data show that the drought of the late 1990s and early 2000s was not unusual; longer and more severe droughts are a regular part of the climate variability in that part of the continent.

    2) Combined with water withdrawals that many believe are not sustainable, the drought has caused a dramatic drop in Lake Powell’s water level over the past decade.

    3) The indications are that conditions are improving – In the latter half of the decade, the drought eased somewhat. Precipitation was near, but still slightly below average in the Upper Colorado River Basin. and While the lake was significantly higher in May 2010 than in 2005,

    4) The snowpack which is 21% above normal currently should maintain this improvement.

  8. Larry Cochran says:

    Lets all be positive here, In 08 they had flood simulation and damn problems and dropped lake to 3588, 09 went up t0 3642, 2010 3638, and 2011 should be about same as last year. Also note lake mead is up 16 feet since last december and is expected to rise another 4-6 feet. Yes the drought sucks and is not over, and we will probably run out of water do to global warming. Lets hope for a few good years. I have been to powell for the last five years, and every launch is open except for hite, unless you have some steel testicles. Lets enjoy the heavy run off, and remeber we are all supposed to be gone on 12/21/12 so who cares. LOL

  9. David Ehrlich says:

    Hello All:
    As someone who has been going to Lake Powell for 20 years, this lake would fill THIS summer if it was not for the “Equalization Agreement which is sharing all excess over 8.23 maf per year. One more wet year and Powell could easily fill. As for Mead, the problem is soley one of taking too much out. All the states will have to ratchet back their use to 8.23 maf.

  10. D. Rigman says:

    The sky is falling the sky is falling. We have too much water now….GLOBAL COOLING!!!!

  11. Al Gore is my Messiah says:

    Don’t listen to these global warming deniers! Shut up and pay your carbon taxes to Al Gore and his banker buddies that run the World Bank and IMF. Maurice Strong is waiting! Hurry up Obama and tax the hell out of all the dumb Americans! If you do not pay your carbon taxes WE WILL ALL DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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