News Feature | October 24, 2018

Is Lake Mead Drying Up?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

arizona1 reg new

Lake Mead levels are low, which creates significant complications for water management in Arizona.

“If the lake levels dip too low, Arizona could lose about a seventh of its annual water allotment to the Central Arizona Project, which supplies much of the state’s water. Water experts said that could lead to farmers and homeowners paying higher water rates and prioritize Arizona behind neighboring states in CAP water availability. Conservation may be key to keeping water in everyone’s taps in Arizona,” Cronkite News reported.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says the drought could create consequences.

“The bureau, responsible for divvying up Lake Mead’s water and electric power, in August reported a 57 percent chance that Lake Mead’s water levels would be so dismal in 2020 that Arizona and Nevada would face cutoffs. If the water level falls to 1,075 feet above sea level, a shortage declaration would be issued and cuts would be scheduled,” the report stated.

Cutoffs are not a long way off. The bureau said water levels were 1,078 above sea level in September.

“Cutoffs will begin if water levels dip 3 feet lower in December, with restrictions getting worse as water levels drop even further. Those initial cutoffs would reach rural areas that rely on CAP water. If Lake Mead’s water level falls below 1,050 feet, Arizona would lose an additional 80,000 acre-feet of water, according to the Bureau of Reclamation,” the report stated.

Lake Mead is not alone is reaching near-critical levels.

“Even as seven Western states that rely on the Colorado River for water hammer out final agreements to protect reservoirs on the river, the two lakes are less than half full.

Jennifer Pitt, who works on Colorado River policy for the National Audubon Society, [said] that without changes to how Lake Mead and Lake Powell are managed, levels could fall below the point where no more water can be released,” The Weather Channel reported, citing Grand Canyon News.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says all of Arizona is experiencing at least abnormally dry conditions. More than 42 percent of the state is experiencing severe drought conditions.

Image credit: "Atardecer en el Horseshoebend, Horseshoebend sunset.," Vicente Villamón © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.