Drought in the West

News Brief: Luke Runyon on Western Water Shortages

Jul 20, 2021

Lake Powell is at its lowest level ever. The Federal government could declare a water shortage throughout the Colorado River Basin as soon as August.  For this week’s News Brief, KDNK’s Amy Hadden Marsh spoke with KUNC water reporter Luke Runyon to find out what this means.

The water levels behind the Colorado River’s biggest dams are fast-approaching or already at record lows. The historic 21-year megadrought that is squeezing some Western states’ water supplies will also likely start showing up in energy bills, because those dams can’t produce as much electricity.

Updated July 19, 2021:

Federal officials laid out details of how reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell will release water in an attempt to keep producing hydropower. On Friday the Bureau of Reclamation published new forecasts for reservoir operations in the Colorado River basin.

Just weeks into the summer season, extreme heat is suffocating parts of the Mountain West including areas already grappling with historic drought conditions.

Blistering temperatures from Nevada and Utah to Idaho and some parts of Colorado come on the heels of an analysis by the World Weather Attribution linking the recent heatwave in the Pacific Northwest to human-caused climate change.

The Colorado River is tapped out.

Another dry year has left the waterway that supplies 40 million people in the Southwest parched. A prolonged 21-year warming and drying trend is pushing the nation’s two largest reservoirs to record lows. For the first time this summer, the federal government will declare a shortage.