Feds project shortage in 2018 Lake Mead water to Arizona, Nevada

A boater drifts toward a boat ramp in an area that was once underwater at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct 14, 2015 | AP Photo by John Locher, St. George News

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Amid punishing drought, federal water managers projected Tuesday that by a very narrow margin, the crucial Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River won’t have enough water to make full deliveries to Nevada and Arizona in 2018.

A riverboat glides through Lake Mead on the Colorado River at Hoover Dam near Boulder City, Nev. Amid an historic drought in the West, federal water managers are due to release an annual projection of surface levels at Lake Mead that'll determine whether water deliveries from the crucial Colorado River reservoir will be cut next year to Arizona, Nevada and California, Oct. 14, 2015 | AP Photo by Jae C. Hong, St. George News
A riverboat glides through Lake Mead on the Colorado River at Hoover Dam near Boulder City, Nevada, Oct. 14, 2015 | AP Photo by Jae C. Hong, St. George News

A 24-month projection, issued on a day the largest reservoir on the closely controlled and monitored river was 36 percent full, showed the surface level of the lake behind Hoover Dam is expected to clear the trigger point this year to avoid a shortage declaration in 2017.

The margin is expected to be just under 4 feet, or almost 228 billion gallons of water.

For 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects missing the mark by under a foot, which would trigger a shortage declaration, cuts to Arizona’s water allocation by 11.4 percent and cuts to Nevada’s water flow by 4.3 percent.

That would be enough water to serve more than 600,000 homes a year in Arizona and about 26,000 in Nevada.

Conservationists said a close call should be a wake-up to water users to be careful.

“We avoided a shortage by the skin of our teeth,” said Bart Miller, of Western Resource Advocates. “If no action is taken … a shortage declaration is not far off. We need to step up water conservation, reuse and innovative water management.

Public water managers in Nevada, California and Arizona said they hoped the shortage projection wasn’t a certainty.

Most pointed to swaps and storage programs that have propped up the lake level by reducing the amount of water drawn for use elsewhere.

“It’s good to know we won’t be in shortage in 2017. We’re hopeful we can again avoid shortage in 2018,” said Chuck Cullom, Colorado River programs chief for the Central Arizona Project.

If water cuts begin, the Phoenix-based agency would drain underground storage supplies and cut water supplies to farmers by half. Tribal and municipal customers wouldn’t immediately be affected, Cullom said.

The Colorado River provides crucial water supplies to about 40 million residents, farms, businesses and tribal entities in seven Southwest states, also including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Written by KEN RITTER, Associated Press

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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