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Reduced consumption means no mandatory Lake Mead water reductions

Lake Mead bathtub ring 2010. (Credit: commons.wikimedia.org)

Good news. California, Arizona, and Nevada have reduced water consumption so dramatically that mandatory Lake Mead water reductions will not be needed. In total, the three states will use less than seven million acre feet of water this year, for the first time since 1992, despite having seven million more people. Wow.

There’s still more water going out of Lake Mead than coming in. However 2016 Colorado River water flow is expected to be 92% of normal, which helps. Southern Nevada, including Las Vegas, gets a tiny allotment of that water compared to Nevada and California. Vegas recycles all indoor water, including toilet water. That water is pumped back into Lake Mead and does not count against their allotment.

“We’ve reached a turning point where population is going up and water use is going down,” said Fleck, who was just named director of the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. “It’s still not enough, but we’re headed in the right direction at least.”

By the end of the year, officials in Nevada, Arizona and California hope to finalize a landmark deal outlining a series of voluntary water reductions designed to prop up Lake Mead and stave off deeper, mandatory cuts for Arizona and Nevada.

Arizona would shoulder most of the voluntary reductions, but the tentative deal marks the first time California has agreed to share the pain if the drought worsens.

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