Water officials from Arizona, California and Nevada are working on a plan to increase water levels in Lake Mead

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Water officials from Arizona, California and Nevada are working on a plan that would take less water from the Colorado River and help increase water-levels in Lake Mead. We learned more from Sarah Porter, Director of ASU’s Kyl Center for Water at the Morrison Institute.

“The water managers and kind of top Colorado River negotiators from those three states which represent the lower Colorado basin, have been working on a plan to help keep the levels of Lake Mead up. So, they’ve announced a plan…they call it the ‘500-plus plan’ because the plan is to leave 500,000 acre-feet in Lake Mead in addition to the water that was scheduled or agreed upon to be left in Lake Mead because the lake fell to a certain level,” Porter said.

Porter touched on the contingency plan that all of the basin states agreed upon in 2019. It involves leaving water in Lake Mead if the levels of Lake Mead fall to certain points.

She said that 500,000 acre-feet is enough water to supply 1.5 million homes.

The current drought contingency plan already has central Arizona taking a cut of 512,000 acre-feet. Right now, Porter said, they’re looking for more voluntary users who will voluntarily leave water in Lake Mead. She mentioned they don’t know exactly who is stepping up.

There have been assurances from the Department of Water Resources and others that different large water-using parties are agreeing to leave water in Lake Mead.

“In 2026, we’re going to have new operating guidelines for the whole system, for the Colorado River system, so this again could be seen as a kind of interim step to take to help keep the system functional. The reason that California, Nevada and Arizona had to go back to the negotiating table and come up with additional measures to be taken…the drought contingency plan isn’t doing enough,” Porter said.

Sarah Porter, Director of the Kyl Center for Water at the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University

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