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Dam power-full: Lake’s level remains high enough for energy generation

Even though the amount of water in Lake Mead continues to decrease, it is not expected to go low enough to stop Hoover Dam’s ability to produce hydropower, according to officials from the Bureau of Reclamation.

Lake Mead is currently operating under a federally declared water shortage and its allocation of water for 2022 has been cut by 21,000 acre feet. The level is also expected to drop 30 feet in the next two years, falling to 1,035.09 feet of water.

Currently, its level is approximately 1,050 feet and it is expected to fall below that soon. Despite that drop, Hoover Dam will still be able to produce hydropower, according Patti Aaron, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation’s lower Colorado region that oversees the dam’s operations.

“Lake Mead will decline to below 1,050 feet this week, but it will not affect our ability to produce hydropower. … Hoover (Dam) would no longer be able to produce power at 950 feet of elevation,” she said. “We do not anticipate that happening.”

The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s low-lake-level pumping station was also recently put into use in order to secure the area’s access to water.

“We’re the only one in the lower basin (of the Colorado River) that has this security. … We still have access to the water supply but conservation is still important,” said Bronson Mack, SNWA spokesperson.

Mack said conserving outdoor use is especially important because the water is not recycled and put back into Lake Mead. Other ways to conserve are following the seasonal watering restrictions, changing unused grass to water-efficient landscaping and finding and reporting water waste.

The pumping station was completed in April 2020 at a cost of $522 million. It was built to ensure that water flows to the Las Vegas Valley and Boulder City even if the reservoir shrinks to 895 feet to its “dead pool.” At that point, Hoover Dam is unable to release water downstream.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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