'Uninvited Guest' Is Killing a Southwest Reservoir

Climate change is decreasing water levels in Lake Powell: Rebecca Solnit
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2017 7:10 PM CDT
A 'Dying' Reservoir, a Reemerging Canyon
What's going to happen to Lake Powell?   (Getty Images/4FR)

More than 50 years ago, Glen Canyon, straddling Arizona and Utah, became flooded with water after the creation of the Glen Canyon Dam led to the formation of the Lake Powell reservoir. But even though the Sierra Club wrote the canyon's obituary in 1963, Rebecca Solnit reveals in the California Sunday Magazine that the canyon is facing a resurrection of sorts, with a chance for the spires, ruins, burial sites, and general "intricate complexity hidden by water" for decades to see the sun once again. But excitement for the potential uncovering of this "drowned canyon" is tempered by the reason for it: climate change, the "uninvited guest" and "unanticipated disaster" that's sucking water out of the Southwest via drought and evaporation.

Solnit dives into the backstory of the upper Colorado River's development in the 1950s that eventually led to the creation of the dam and Lake Powell, which submerged the canyon in 1963, as well as the sticky differences between the more compromising conservationists of yesteryear and "tougher" environmentalists of today. Solnit also talks of her multi-summer explorations of Lake Powell with photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, labeling it an "enchanted ... sublimely beautiful" place, despite its slowly declining water levels, evidenced by the increasingly shorter water marks along the shoreline. Solnit isn't sure what's going to ultimately happen to the faltering reservoir, but "what's not hard to say is that Lake Powell is dying, and from its corpse the Colorado River is emerging," she writes. Read her full piece here. (The drought out West actually lifted the California mountains.)

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