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Forecast projects 30-plus-foot drop in 2 years at Lake Mead

Updated January 19, 2022 - 4:46 pm

Lake Mead’s water level is projected to drop more than 30 feet in the next two years, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority is urging people to continue conserving water.

The Bureau of Reclamation released a 24-month forecast Jan. 12, which projects Lake Mead to drop to 1,035.09 feet of water.

“Lake Mead is currently at 1067.16 feet,” wrote Michael Bernardo, deputy chief for the Boulder Canyon Operations Office, in an email. “The January 2021 most probable 24-month study … projects Lake Mead ending 2023 at 1,035.09 feet, a decline of 32.07 feet.”

SNWA spokesperson Bronson Mack said the three most important actions people can take to help the water situation is to follow the seasonal watering restrictions, change unused grass to water-efficient landscaping and find and report water waste.

“Water restrictions continue to be the biggest thing to save water,” he said. “It would save more water than is being cut if everyone followed seasonal restrictions.”

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 to 279,000 acre feet for the year. Usually, it receives 300,000 acre feet of water.

Mack said if the lake falls below 1,050 feet, it will trigger the next tier of drought contingency plans and Nevada’s annual allocation of water will be cut by 25,000 acre feet.

According to the bureau’s study, Lake Mead is projected to drop to 1,049.23 feet in June of 2022 but is expected to rebound to 1,050.98 by December. It’s then expected to continue falling until it reaches 1,035.09 feet in December of 2023.

Even before this latest forecast was released, Mack said the SNWA board had put some “pretty robust conservation efforts” into place and the situation becomes one of managing those efforts.

“We already use the smallest share of the Colorado River,” he said. “For us here locally, it’s a matter of staying within … (our) acre-feet allotments.”

Some of the SNWA’s efforts include seasonal watering restrictions and an ordinance that prohibits grass in the backyards of new residential developments. Currently, water is only allowed one day a week through Feb. 28.

For more information about the restrictions, go to: https://www.snwa.com/importance-of-conservation/watering-group/index.html.

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

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