LAS VEGAS — The top water official in Las Vegas is floating the idea of
seeking federal disaster aid to deal with ongoing drought and decreasing water
levels at the Colorado River reservoir that provides most of Sin City’s water.
With federal water managers due next week to release Lake Mead water level
forecasts, Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy told the Las Vegas
Review-Journal that she thinks drought could hurt the Southwest as much as
Superstorm Sandy did the Atlantic seaboard in 2012.
“This is as much an extreme weather event as Sandy was on the East Coast,”
Mulroy told the newspaper. “Does a drought not rise to
the same level as a storm? The potential damage is just as bad.”
Authority officials said Thursday that no formal disaster aid request had been
The vast Lake Mead reservoir behind Hoover Dam provides almost all of the water
supply for more than 2 million residents and hundreds of thousands of tourists a
year in and around Las Vegas. Drought has dropped the lake water level more than
100 feet since 2000.
The lake, with a surface elevation of 1,106 feet above sea level on Thursday,
was still almost half full, at 47 percent, a federal Bureau of Reclamation
spokeswoman said. But it has been getting closer to the 1,075-foot trigger for
water supply cuts for Nevada and Arizona.
Bureau officials plan to post a two-year projection Aug. 16 for managing
Colorado River water between the Lake Powell reservoir upstream and Lake Mead.
Under normal conditions, Lake Powell releases at least 8.23 million acre-feet
of water a year downstream to Lake Mead for use by Nevada, Arizona, California
One acre-foot of water is enough to supply two average Las Vegas-area homes for
a year. Under a series of agreements stretching back 90 years, Nevada gets
300,000 acre-feet of river water annually.
But drought has federal water managers warning water decision-makers from seven
Western states, conservation groups and Indian tribes that the river could be
unable to meet demands of a growing regional population over the next 50 years.
Water authority engineers also face the possibility that water intakes for the
Las Vegas supply could be affected if the Lake Mead water level drops to 1,050
feet above sea level. The water authority has two intakes, and is drilling a
third to be capable of drawing water from one of the deepest parts of the lake.
Mulroy told the Review-Journal that the $817 million drilling project is due to
be finished by the end of 2014.
The water authority also is pursuing a controversial and expensive plan to tap
groundwater in counties along the Nevada-Utah border and pump it to Las Vegas.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com