Billions of gallons of water from Lake Powell are being dumped into the Grand Canyon
Billions of gallons of water are being released from Lake Powell and dumped into waterways along the Grand Canyon, according to federal environmental agencies.
For 72 hours, water will be released from the Glen Canyon Dam at a rate of 39,500 cubic feet per second, which the National Park Service characterized as a "much larger than normal."
The release aims to restore sandbars, beaches and campsites used by visitors to the Grand Canyon, according to the NPS. The water will enter the Paria River and move sediment onto beaches and sandbars in Marble Canton and eastern Grand Canyon to restore the Colorado River corridor in eastern Grand Canyon National Park.
In addition to serving as recreational areas for tourists, the sandbars also supply sand needed to protect archaeological sites.
MORE: Here's what will happen if Colorado River system doesn't recover from 'historic drought'
Releasing water from Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell to supply Lake Mead typically happens in the fall.
Current sediment loads, as well as "favorable hydrology conditions" resulting from a wet winter with ample rainfall and snowpack, are conducive to the high-flow experiment, which is being conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The release will mimic the natural flow pattern of the Colorado River, which would typically occur each spring during the runoff of snowmelt.
The experiment will not affect the total annual amount of water released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead for the 2023 water allotment, officials said.
The high flows that follow the initial release could affect the difficulty of some of the rapids within the canyons, according to the NPS.
MORE: How beavers could help the Colorado River survive future droughts
River users are advised to exercise caution along the Colorado River through Glen and Grand Canyons through Sunday.
"There are inherent risks associated with recreational activities along the Colorado River corridor through Grand Canyon at all times," the NPS statement said.
The water releases will eventually snake through the canyons to Lake Mead.
MORE: Federal government proposes landmark water cuts to conserve Colorado River water
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