LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – There is new uncertainty for the future of water levels in Lake Mead. Upstream at the Glen Canyon Dam, key underwater tubes have been deemed unreliable. According to a newly released memo from the Bureau of Reclamation, that could pose a potential threat to delivery of water to Southern Nevada in the future especially if water levels continue to decline.

Glen Canyon Dam, which forms Lake Powell, is a concrete arch dam constructed from 1956-1964 to store water in the Colorado River Basin. More than 30 million people in Nevada, Arizona, and California depend on water continuing to flow from Lake Powell to Lake Mead. The water flow is controlled by water releases at the Glen Canyon Dam which also generate power.

Glen Canyon Dam(FOX5)

Two weeks ago, after discovering issues in the dam’s lowest level outlet tubes known as river outlet works, the Bureau of Reclamation issued this Technical Decision Memorandum.

The memo author writing: “Given the current uncertainty associated with long-term performance…it is recommended that Reclamation not rely on the river outlet works as the sole means for releasing water from Glen Canyon Dam.” The issues discovered at Glen Canyon Dam could become a critical issue if water levels drop.

When the elevation is below 3,490 feet, all water would have to pass through the river outlet works instead of through other channels like spillways. If a river outlet was then to fail, releases would be limited or stopped until repairs could be made. Also, at such low levels, the water couldn’t run through the dam’s turbines that generate electricity.

The good news according to the memo: “Based on Reclamation’s most recent elevation projections…the most probable Lake Powell elevation is expected to be no lower than 3,558 ft though February 2026.”

The Bureau of Reclamation announced this week, the recently uncovered damage will require it to reduce flows through portions of the structure at Glen Canyon Dam as it works to repair the site and prevent future problems at the nation’s second largest reservoir.

Some people wanted to see Lake Powell drained as FOX5 has previously reported.


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