How Deep Is Lake Powell Normally?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: May 15, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Lucas Cometto
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Lake Powell is a large reservoir on the border of Utah and Arizona. It is along the Colorado River and runs through the Glen Canyon Dam which is a hydro-power plant. The past few years there has been a drought that has led to the lake being less and less deep. This spring, Lake Powell has reached the lowest level ever in the past 57 years. Just how deep is Lake Powell? Why is it so low? How deep is Lake Powell normally? Let’s find out!

Lake Powell is 3,523 feet above sea level now, the lowest it has been in more than 50 years!

worldswildlifewonders/Shutterstock.com

How deep is Lake Powell now?

Lake Powel is 391.25 feet at the dam. Lakes are also measured by sea level and currently (May 10, 2022) the lake is at 3,523.25 feet above sea level.

How deep is Lake Powell normally?

Normally, Lake Powell is 558 feet deep at the dam. Currently, the water is 167 feet below what it normally is. Looking at the sea level measurements, the lake is considered full, “Full Pool”, at 3,700 feet above sea level. Currently, it is at 3,523.25 feet making it 176.75 below Full Pool.

What has been the water level of Lake Powell the past 5 years?

Lake Powell Utah
There has been a steady decrease in the lake level since July of 2020.

iStock.com/Lucas Cometto

  • May 10, 2018: 3,609.35 feet (above sea level)
  • 2019: 3,576.02 feet
  • 2020: 3,600.61 feet
  • 2021: 3,561.13 feet
  • 2022: 3,523.25 feet

As you can see there has been some fluctuation in the water levels. There was a little bit of a recovery in 2020, but since July of 2020 there has been a steady decrease.

When was Lake Powell the shallowest?

The lowest it has been since the Glen Canyon Dam was first built was in April of 2005 when it reached 3,555 feet above sea level.

When was Lake Powell the deepest?

Man on Boat in Arizona
At its peak, Lake Powell was above the Full Pool mark. Lake Powell is a popular tourist destination for water recreation like boating and fishing.

kavram/Shutterstock.com

In July of 1983, Lake Powell was over the Full Pool mark at 3,708 feet above sea level. In April of 1984, it went back down to 3,673 feet and fluctuated between these two approximate levels for about 5 years.

Have there been any other droughts in the Southwest states?

Yes. There was a great drought in the US in 1983 but the “US Drought of 1983” affected the Midwest more than it did the southwest. States like Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky were affected by the drought and heat. Lake Powell stayed pretty steady during that time period. However, during the summer of 1989, another drought did affect the southwest states and Lake Powell felt the impact. Here is how the water levels played out:

  • July 1989: 3,676
  • 1990: 3,650
  • 1992: 3,633
  • Feb. 1993: 3,612 (the lowest it had been since April of 1973, 20 years earlier)

Did Lake Powell recover from the drought in 1989?

Yes! By July of 1993, it rebounded up 56 feet to reach 3,668 feet. The spring runoff that year, and snow melting from the nearby mountains, contributed to the refilling of the lake. By May 1998 Lake Powell was back at Full Pool capacity of 3,700 feet.

Will the spring runoff this year bring the water levels back up?

The snow melt from the Rocky Mountains and other mountains along the Colorado River is expected to be less this year.

iStock.com/zhuzhu

Yes and no. It will provide some increase in water levels but there was near record low level of snowfall this year in the mountains that feed into the river and lake. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the May monthly water supply forecast, “The forecast estimated that the amount of water that will flow into Lake Powell this spring and summer will be about 59% of average, based on 30 years of data from 1991 to 2020.”  

When was the Glen Canyon Dam built?

The Glen Canyon Dam was built between 1956-1963. The dam is what caused the water from the Colorado River to pool just above the dam forming Lake Powell. It began pooling in March of 1963 and reached its Full Pool level of 3,700 on June 22, 1980.

What is Lake Powell used for?

Lake Powell is used as a storage area for water for times like this when there is a drought. The problem is the drought has been going on for some 20 years! Maintaining the water level is important because it has to maintain a certain level in order to make the dam work. If it gets too low it will not flow through the dam and make the generator turbines turn to create energy. Think about your water faucet and trying to fill up a water balloon. You need to have some pressure to get the balloon filled. If it is just a trickle, it won’t work.

Why is Lake Powell important?

smallmouth vs largemouth bass
There is excellent fishing in Lake Powell including bass, crappie, walleye and catfish.

iStock.com/stammphoto

Lake Powell is important because the power plant at the Glen Canyon Dam produces hydroelectric power for seven states. It is also one of the main sources of domestic water supplies and water for farmers and ranchers along the river. Even if those industries did not exist, Lake Powell is the home to 315 bird species, 14 different fish species including 4 that are endangered, and a variety of other animals and plant life. Many businesses rely on the beauty of the lake for tourism. More than 2 million visitors visit the lake and Glen Lake National Recreation Area each year. They come to spend a few days on a houseboat, swim, kayak, and fish (excellent bass, crappie, walleye, and catfish!).

What is being done to get the lake back to how deep Lake Powell is normally?

The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation announced it would be holding 480,000-acre feet of water in Lake Powell instead of releasing it through the dam. It is also going to release 500,000-acre feet of water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the border of Wyoming and Utah. The Flaming George is a 3 million acre foot reservoir that is at 78% capacity now. Once the water is released it is hopeful to raise Lake Powell by 16 feet bringing it to 3,539. It is estimated that it will lower the Flaming George reservoir by 9 feet.

Is Lake Powell the largest man-made lake in the United States?

No, it is the second-largest, with Lake Mead being the largest. Lake Mead is a reservoir created above the Hoover Dam. It can hold 28 million acre feet of water. Lake Powell can hold 27 million acre feet of water when it is full.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness and suggesting actions we can all do to help wildlife. As a former elementary school teacher I have a love for learning and teaching. My goal is to get kids fired-up about animals. Learning about the animals we share this earth with makes life better. When I am not writing I am living the good life with my husband and six kids (we are down to two that are still at home...and our giant labradoodle, Tango!).

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