New Alarms Sounded About Lake Mead Water Levels


Lake Mead

The changing shoreline of Lake Mead

Barely a day passes without news about the tightening grip of the drought in the desert Southwest.

There is the hashtag #droughtshaming, where pictures of people wasting water are posted on social media sites.

California’s governor is seeking a 25 percent drop in water use and just days ago, federal water managers predicted Lake Mead, which supplies water to Las Vegas and California, will drop to unprecedented water levels in January 2017.

The Associated Press reported that if that happens, Nevada’s share of Lake Mead would drop 4.3 percent – equal to 26,000 homes.

Pat Mulroy, former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said California started to address the dwindling waters of Lake Mead too late. Now, she said, they “have few arrows left in their quiver” to deal with the drought.

"They have been working on conservation but it hasn't been as aggressive as it has been here in Nevada," Mulroy said. "It think this is a real transformational moment for the state of California."

Mulroy told KNPR's State of Nevada that Nevada put an aggressive plan into place in 2003 in anticipation of an extended drought.

"We've already conserved it. That was the plan going in that we not go into a crisis mode that we not have to go to Draconian conservation measures," Mulroy said.

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Despite the drought, she doesn't believe there needs to be a moratorium on growth around the southwest. 

"It's not about whether you grow, it's about how you grow," Mulroy said.

She pointed out that Las Vegas added 500,000 new residences while cutting its water use by 40 percent. 

"It's not about stopping development it's about making sure it's smart development  that it is water efficient development," Mulroy said.

She said development needs to take into consideration the changing climate. Mulroy said many people saw the severe drought coming and people need to understand how much it will change life in the Southwest. 

"This was to be expected and its going to change the way we in the southwest, and quite honestly the entire Colorado River Basin, use water," Mulroy said. "It's time for us to take stock of how we use water in an urban environment, how we use water in an agriculture environment, what the true environmental needs are and find a new balance point."







Pat Mulroy, senior Climate Adaptation and Environmental Policy fellow, Brookings Mountain West 

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