Did you know that Lake Powell is the second largest reservoir in the United States? Tata and Howard reported the top 10 largest man-made reservoirs. The biggest is its big brother just down the river, Lake Mead. Sure the title Great Lakes is taken, but we should be able to call this area the Great Reservoirs region.
We know that water is a precious resource in the West, especially after suffering through this last mega drought, but what would happen if we could borrow the Mississippi River for a bit. How long would it take it to fill our beloved Lake Powell?
Let’s take a look at some factoids:
First, let's look at the flow of the Mississippi.
It empties into the Gulf of Mexico just past the port in New Orleans. By this point, about 2,350 miles later, the river is flowing at 4.5 million gallons per second (600,000 cubic feet per second).
Lake Powell can hold 8.8 trillion gallons of water at its peak according to Arizona State University., but according to NASA It is at 26% so it has 2.28 Trillion gallons, but could hold 6.52 trillion more gallons. That is a staggering number that we are told would take about 10 more good rain years to fill.
But if we were able to borrow the ole Miss for a bit how long would it take? (6.52 trillion divided by 4.5 million=1388889 seconds) After doing a little math we find that to fill it to capacity from where it is now it would only take a little over 16 days. That's right just over two weeks to fill Lake Powell, awesome.
Ok, so the Mississippi is mighty. But let’s say we went crazy and everyone in the deserts from here to the coast put in tropical gardens with grass, tropical plants, and river features with no respect for our future. The lake is now dry, which is impossible because at some point it would reach dead pool status.
Dead pool is when the lake is so low it cannot pass any water through the dam. Not that there is anything wrong with the lake it’s just that Glen Canyon dam is built to generate hydroelectric power and those generators would have to be shut down before too much air mixes with the water and damages the generators.
In this example to get past dead pool let's say we get a big sump pump and drain Lake Powell down to the bottom. Now how long would it take to refill? It would still only take the mighty Mississippi 22 and a half days to refill it. Amazing.
There has been some talk of diverting some of the water from the Miss, but that would be a huge piping endeavor and some are concerned that it would heighten the problem of disappearing shores of Louisiana, But hey, if we had an influx of water we could offer some pretty sweet tropical gardens to our Lousiana friends. I know this is a dream, but when it comes to water in the West sometimes that’s all we can do, dream.