Lake Mead will end 2016 only two inches lower than in 2015, despite the drought. This is because, among other things, Nevada and Arizona continue to use less water than their allotment. Las Vegas also recycles all inside water. It flows back into lake Mead and is reused over and over. This does not count against its minuscule 1.8% allotment of water from Lake Mead.
Conservation works. Southern Nevada, Phoenix, and Tucson now use less water overall than they did twenty years ago, despite much larger populations.
As I write this on New Years Eve, it looks like Mead will end 2016 at elevation 1,080 feet and change above sea level, just a couple of inches below where it ended 2015. Maybe the experience of the last couple of years suggests “inexorable” is no longer the right word?
A few things are going on here:
Arizona only took 2.61 million acre feet of water in 2016, 93 percent of its full allotment.
Nevada only took 235,000 acre feet, 78 percent of its full allotment.
Over the last couple of years, the combined conservation efforts of Arizona and Nevada are equivalent to about 8 feet of elevation in Mead – water that is currently sitting in the reservoir.