Lake Powell plunges past a level that water managers sought to protect

Water levels at drought-stricken Lake Powell have dropped below an elevation water managers had fought to protect, dipping past a buffer meant to protect hydropower generation.

For the first time since water rose behind Glen Canyon Dam in the 1960s, the lake’s surface dropped below elevation 3,525 Tuesday, the US Bureau of Reclamation said Wednesday morning. The dam can still produce electricity down to elevation 3,490, but shallower water reduces pressure and the power plant’s capacity, and further declines could damage the turbines.

The new low reflects the continuing dirty work of the region’s worst drought in 1,200 years, one that has deepened into a megadrought, according to scientists. High water demand from both a growing regional population and the effects of a warming climate promise to continue challenging water managers to shore up the Colorado River’s second-largest savings account.

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