I-Team: Colorado River allocations banked in Lake Mead

 LAS VEGAS -- A major agreement on how to combat the shrinking water level at Lake Mead was reached Thursday. The pact involved states like Nevada that draw water from the Colorado River. 

The water level at Lake Mead has dropped about 10-feet per year since 2000, and drought has continued to plague the southwest. The lake's elevation this week stood at 1,084 feet: Below 1,050 feet, one of the main intakes which sends water from the lake to the Las Vegas valley has stopped working. That's a serious situation.

"How do we make sure Lake Mead doesn't get to critical elevations," asked Terry Fulp, Bureau of Reclamation.

Members of the Colorado River Water Users Association agreed to bank some of their water allocations in Lake Mead: There will be 750-thousand acre feet of water to start with, but the goal is to store an additional three million acre feet in the lake over the next five years.

It's going to be done through conservation programs by people taking less water out of the lake and through system efficiencies," John Entsminger, General Manager of SNWA said.

The impact additional water in Lake Mead will have on the elevation of the lake is unknown, but three million acre feet are about a fifth of all the water drawn from the river each year.

The main focus of the conference was the entire Colorado River System, not just the part containing Lake Mead, so a three pronged approach was among many proposals to deal with the drought and dwindling water supply issue.

    1. Conservation by reducing the demand for water from the Colorado River.
    2. Desalination to turning ocean water from salty to fresh.
    3. Increasing snow fall in the Rockies so when it melts in the spring it's the primary source of water for the river.

"Cloud seeding increases winter snow pack to optimize existing cloud seeding operations," said Don Ostler, Upper Colorado River Comm.

Many of the proposals being discussed are in varying phases of development. There are facilities for turning salt water into fresh water, but it's expensive and hasn't been done on a very large scale.

Nevada, Arizona and California are the states actually involved in the banking of water to keep the level of Lake Mead from dropping to a dangerous level.


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