LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – Lake Mead water levels continue to recover this winter, and one expert cites conservation efforts behind the recent upward trajectory.

According to Professor Andrea Gerlak of the Udall Center For Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona, the recent cuts approved by the feds last fall have made a difference.

Nevada, California and Arizona agreed to cut back usage by 3 million acre feet through 2026—which equates to 977.5 billion gallons of water. The states received federal funding to manage those cuts.

“It’s really great to see Lake Mead on the mend. It’s really great news for everyone living in the Colorado River Basin to see these lake levels up. What it tells me is that the conservation efforts are really working,” Gerlak said. “The good news is, the short term solutions show us what’s possible: they show us what’s possible in terms of collaboration at all these different levels. And it helps really build a model for what we can do going forward… really what we’re missing is a long term solution, a long term strategy,” she said.

Levels reached 1,075 feet. Gerlak said we won’t know for a few more months whether this winter’s snowpack improves lake levels even further.

More cuts will be needed in the future, as climate scientists predict that the Southwest will only get warmer and drier.

Last winter provided significant snowpack and rainfall. Assistant State Climatologist Becky Bolinger of the Colorado Climate Center said the users of the Colorado River Basin cannot depend on similar above-average winters in coming years.

“Unfortunately, these very wet years are being spread out… We’re still operating at a deficit: a multi decade deficit. We need about 10 of those years to completely solve the Lake Mead and Lake Powell issues. That’s definitely not going to happen,” Bolinger said.

“We’re never going to get Lake Mead back to where it was. What we have to do is start rethinking how we operate both in the Upper basin and the Lower basin. How do we operate and manage our water? How do we use what is actually given to us?” she said.


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