Lake Powell is at 45 percent of capacity and is at risk of its surface elevation falling to the lowest level on record. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Lake Powell, one of the nation’s largest reservoirs, is now below 45 percent of its capacity.

Straddling the border between Utah and Arizona, the man-made reservoir is part of the Colorado Water Basin that supplies water to 40 million people.

Lake Powell stores water from states in the upper Colorado basin — New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming — for the states in the lower basin: Nevada, Arizona and California. Along with generating electricity, the reservoir also protects the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead from flooding.

For more than 14 years, the basin and the Western states have been plagued by drought. Almost every year, all of the water from the Colorado River is pumped out before emptying into the the Gulf of California.

Many climate scientists think the Southwest is again due for a megadrought,” Jonathan Waterman wrote in National Geographic. “The Bureau of Reclamation’s analysis of over a hundred climate projections suggests the Colorado River Basin will be much drier by the end of this century than it was in the past one, with the median projection showing 45 percent less runoff into the river.”

Getty photographer Justin Sullivan explored Lake Powell this weekend. Here’s a look:


Low water levels at Lake Powell. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A bleached “bathtub ring” is visible on the rocky banks. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A beach that used to be the bottom of the lake. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Glen Canyon Dam. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The bathtub ring. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)