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Further drop in Lake Mead water level could trigger water shortage declaration

Posted at 11:34 AM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 09:54:33-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's recent study shows the water level at Lake Mead is being closely monitored as it is nearing a mark that could cause a federally declared water shortage.

A study released in January from the Bureau of Reclamation projects Lake Mead's water level to currently be at 1,085 feet.

However, if Lake Mead's elevation is projected to be below 1,075 feet in August then a shortage condition will be declared in the Lower Basin for the first time in January 2022.

The declaration would apply to the 2022 calendar year, according to the federal agency.

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Under a shortage condition, water allotments to Arizona would be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet, Nevada by 13,000 acre-feet, and Mexico by 50,000 acre-feet.

90% of Southern Nevada’s water comes from Lake Mead. The Southern Nevada Water Authority says if a declaration is made there’s no need to panic. There will still be more than enough water with the region using about 250,000 acre-feet of water last year.

“The shortage that is prescribed on the Colorado River is really not going to affect Southern Nevada because we have done so much to reduce our water use," Bronson Mack, a spokesperson for the water authority, said.

Back in September 2020, the Bureau of Reclamation released models that suggested looming shortages in Lake Powell and Lake Mead were more likely than previously thought between expanding cities and prolonged drought.

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Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico agreed to cuts under a drought contingency plan signed in 2019. When projections drop below 1,075 feet, Nevada and Arizona will face those deeper cuts, according to the plan.

Previous stress test models suggested a 32% chance that Lake Mead will fall below 1,075 feet by 2022 and a 77% chance by 2025, as reported by the Associated Press.