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Lake Mead’s future improves a little. At least for now

Lake Mead’s five-year outlook is slightly better after two wet winters, according to projections released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The five-year projections, released three times a year, account for a vast range of scenarios that could result in different cuts in water use depending on how low reservoirs actually go. However, they come with a wide margin of error, providing little clarity on what’s actually to come.

They’re also much more uncertain as 2007 Colorado River interim guidelines are set to expire in 2026 and two groups of Colorado River states squabble over how to address the water scarcity crisis, including how reservoir releases operate.

But the bottom line is that there’s now a zero percent chance that Lake Mead will fall below 1,000 feet before 2028. That’s down from a 3 percent chance in January’s projection. While that might not seem like much, it does signal that snowpack may have bettered Lake Mead’s prospects in general.

In some cases mapped by the projections, the reservoir could return to normal elevations; but those, too, represent a best-case scenario with a margin of error. It’s anyone’s guess whether weather conditions will allow for that to happen.

There’s still a 13 percent chance that the reservoir will fall below 1,020 feet by 2028, which didn’t change from January’s projection. The lowest the reservoir has ever been is 1,040.58 feet in 2022.

Next month’s two-year projection — released monthly — is one for Southern Nevadans to pay attention to.

Whether Nevada will have to cut water usage further because of a water shortage will be determined by June’s two-year projection, which Reclamation is expected to release mid-month. In 2022, Nevada had to shoulder a cut of an additional 4,000 acre-feet of its Colorado River allotment, based on that year’s June projection.

Contact Alan at ahalaly@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlanHalaly on X.

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