Sunday, January 29, 2012

Low snowpack signals water crisis at Lake Mead

Henry Brean in the Las Vegas Review-Journal: Mother Nature is a fickle mistress. One year removed from near-record snow levels that sent 4 trillion gallons of much-needed meltwater into Lake Mead, winter has gotten off to a terrible start in the mountains that feed the Colorado River. Conditions are so dry that water supply forecasters have slashed their projections for Lake Mead by a whopping 2.45 million acre-feet in the past month alone.

That's 24 vertical feet of water gone -- poof! -- from what had been a promising forecast for the valley's primary source of water. In December, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was predicting a roughly 11-foot rise in Lake Mead over the next year. Now the bureau expects the nation's largest man-made reservoir to shed about 13 feet by January 2013.

One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, which is enough water to supply two average valley homes for one year. At current consumption levels, the 2.45 million acre-foot reduction in Lake Mead's forecast since last month represents enough water to supply the entire Las Vegas Valley for a decade.

Randy Julander summed up this year's snowpack in two words: "It stinks."...

Lake Mead, seen from a NASA satellite

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