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10 Before & After Images That Show the Dwindling Reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin

August 16th, 2021 marks the moment when the U.S. declared shortage on Colorado River for the first time. A combination of climate change and long-term drought in the West took its toll on the Colorado River and its basin, and a water shortage was declared at Lake Mead, the biggest reservoir in the United States in terms of capacity.

The reservoirs along the Colorado River are sitting at 40% of their total capacity, compared to the already low 49% of last year. In these before/after images, we will explore how some of the reservoirs in the Colorado River basin have shrunk in the last 4 years.

Imagery provided by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2. In order to minimize the effects of seasonal fluctuations in water levels, the “before” and “after” images are from the same month 4 years apart, namely August 2017 and August 2021. Move the slider over each image to see the changes.

1. Lake Powell

Located on the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell is the second largest reservoir in the country. The reservoir has fallen to around 3,554 feet in elevation, and at just 33% of capacity, it’s at the lowest since it was filled in 1963.

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2. Lake Mead

Formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in Nevada and Arizona, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of capacity. The reservoir is only 35% full, and sitting at 1,067 feet above sea level, it is also at its lowest level ever.

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3. Blue Mesa Reservoir

Located on the Gunnison River, one of Colorado River’s largest tributaries in western Colorado, Blue Mesa Reservoir is the second largest lake located entirely within Colorado by surface area.

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4. San Carlos Lake

San Carlos Lake is located in Arizona, and was formed by the Coolidge Dam on the Gila River, a 649-mile (1,044 km) long tributary of the Colorado River.

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5. Bartlett Lake

Bartlett Lake, located 48 miles (77 km) from downtown Phoenix, is a reservoir formed by the damming of the Verde River in Arizona, and has a suface area of  2,815 acres (11.4 square kilometers). The 170-mile Verde River reaches Colorado River via Salt River and Gila River.

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6. Lake Granby

Lake Granby was created by Granby Dam, completed in 1950, which dams the Colorado River 5.5 miles (about 9 km) northeast of Granby, Colorado. The lake is the third largest in Colorado by surface area.

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7. Green Mountain Reservoir

Green Mountain Reservoir is located in Colorado along the Blue River, a 65-mile long tributary of the Colorado River. The construction of the Green Mountain Dam was completed in 1942.

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8. Ruedi Reservoir

Ruedi Reservoir is located on the Fryingpan River in Colorado, 15 miles (24 km) upstream of the town of Basalt, near Aspen. The Fryingpan River reaches the Colorado River via the Roaring Fork River.

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9. Vallecito Reservoir

Vallecito Reservoir was created by the contstruction of Vallecito Dam in Colorado, on the Los Pinos River. Los Pinos River reaches Colorado River via the San Juan River.

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10. Taylor Park Reservoir

Taylor Park Reservoir was created in 1937 by the Taylor Park Dam, and is located on the Taylor River in Colorado. The Taylor River reaches the Colorado River via the Gunnison River.

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Catalin

Catalin Trif is a nature enthusiast, blogger, and tech enthusiast. He is also addicted to travel and his guitar.

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