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Study: Lake Mead facing water level drop in 2020

LAS VEGAS - The Bureau of Reclamation just released its latest study on Lake Mead water levels and there could be some issues in 2020.

Although they do this every month, August projections are especially important because those estimates dictate the chance of dealing with a drought.

The local levels look good for next year but that isn't the case in 2020.

There's a chance the lake level could drop nine-feet in two years. The lower that line goes, the less water people are allowed to use in southern Nevada.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority says, staying ahead of the curve and cutting down on water use is necessary to prepare for the future.

Every gallon the desert drinks fuels southern Nevada's future.

"It allows us to be one of the most sustainable and most water efficient communities in the U.S.," said Bronson Mack, SNWA spokesperson.

But what happens if the water levels, drop into drought territory?

"It is a very large metropolitan area that is dependent on Colorado River water.

The Bureau of Reclamation's latest study shows a nearly nine-foot drop by 2020. Currently, Lake Mead's water line sits at 1,078 feet which gives the community plenty of H20 every year. In fact, southern Nevada is using less than the allowed amount.

The more the water line drops, the usage will be shaved down to account for that.

Mack says even if less water is allowed, community conservation is working.

"Conservation efforts have put us ahead of the curve to be able to manage these shortage conditions, but we need to stay focused and we need to continue to reduce our water use so we can stay ahead of that curve long term," Mack said.

Conservation: Restricting outdoor water use

More than half of our supply from Lake Mead goes to outside irrigation for our city's landscaping
that's why Mack says it's so important to keep the momentum going with irrigation control and grass rebate programs.

Rebate: Landscape rebate programs

"Water saved is water stored, and when we can store water, then we have it available for our future use," Mack said.

So we can stretch our shared supply for years to come.

Nevada is just one of seven states using the Colorado River's water supply. 

The Bureau of Reclamation released this statement about the report:

On August 15, the Bureau of Reclamation released its Colorado River August 2018 24-Month Study. Consistent with current operating criteria, projections of January 1 conditions from the August 24-Month Study are used to set the operating condition for Lake Mead and the operating tier for Lake Powell in the upcoming year.
Based on these projections, Lake Mead will operate in the Normal Condition in 2019. Lake Mead will remain in the Normal Condition throughout 2019 even if its elevation drops below the shortage level of 1,075 feet during the year, as is projected to occur.
Lake Powell will operate in the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier in 2019, with a minimum release of 8.23 million acre-feet, and the potential for a mid-year adjustment. The decision on whether or not a mid-year adjustment occurs will be made in April 2019.
Looking forward, projections are less certain. The April 2018 analysis of future conditions showed a 34 percent chance of a 7.48 million acre-feet release from Lake Powell in 2020 and a 52 percent chance of a shortage condition in the Lower Basin in 2020. The analysis will be updated and made available near the end of August.
The Colorado River Basin continues to experience a significant drought and low snowpack runoff, dating back to 2000, making this the driest 19-year period on record, and one of the driest periods in the 1,200-year paleo record.


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