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Updated Aug 13, 2014 - 5:13 pm

More water headed to struggling Lake Mead

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — One of the main reservoirs in the vast Colorado River
water system that is struggling to serve the booming Southwest will get more
water this year, but that won’t be enough to pull Lake Mead back from
near-record lows.

Water managers, farmers and cities throughout the region have been closely
watching the elevation at the reservoir behind Hoover Dam. It is at its lowest
level since the dam was complete and the lake first was filled in the 1930s.

A drop to 1,075 would mean cuts in water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that it will release 10
percent more water from Lake Powell near the Arizona-Utah border into Lake Mead
than it did the past year, thanks to near-normal runoff.

Federal officials said they’ll send 8.23 million acre feet to Lake Mead, up
from 7.48 million acre feet when Lake Powell was at its lowest level ever. An
acre foot is about 325,850 gallons, or enough to cover a football field with a
foot of water.

Despite the additional water, Lake Mead is projected to remain near record lows
at 1,083 feet in January — three feet higher than it was Wednesday. That’s
because more water will be delivered to cities, farms, American Indian
communities and Mexico than Lake Mead will get from Lake Powell.

Federal officials say they will review their projections in April after the
winter snowfall, with the possibility of releasing up to 9 million acre feet
into Lake Mead for the 2015 water year.

The August projections from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation help set the course
for water deliveries for the next two years but didn’t reveal anything
unexpected.

Some water managers and users have been saving water for potential dry days or
preparing for an expected water shortage in 2016. Bureau of Reclamation
spokeswoman Rose Davis said officials still are running numbers that would show
the percentage chance of cuts in 2016. Those figures are expected to be released
later this month.

In the meantime, federal officials and water administrators in metro areas say
they’re committed to finding new ways to make every drop of river water count —
from conservation, recycling, cloud seeding, desalination plants and pipelines
to new reservoirs.

Scott Huntley of the Southern Nevada Water Authority said the agency isn’t
expecting any major difficulties, even if shortages are declared for the
Colorado River water because of conservation and water reuse programs.

“We’re at least in a solid position to weather this,” he said.

The entire Colorado River system supplies water to California, Arizona,
Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and part of Mexico.

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