Exiting water chief declares Lake Mead emergency - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Exiting water chief declares Lake Mead emergency

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Lake Mead is seen in the midst of a 13-year drought in this undated image. (File/FOX5) Lake Mead is seen in the midst of a 13-year drought in this undated image. (File/FOX5)
SNWA General Manager Pat Mulroy talks to FOX5 on Sept. 25, 2013. (FOX5) SNWA General Manager Pat Mulroy talks to FOX5 on Sept. 25, 2013. (FOX5)

On Wednesday, 150 people crammed a small auditorium inside UNLV's Boyd School of Law to hear from Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy in a discussion titled "Water Law in the West."

Mulroy and two other panelists were peppered with questions about dealing with decreases in water supply from the Colorado River, and at Lake Mead, it's creating a perilous predicament.

"What I did a couple weeks ago is declare an emergency under Nevada law, allowing us to make a quick connection to the first intake," said Mulroy. 

Lake Mead's current level is around 1,100 feet, but could drop to record lows with reduced supply from the Colorado.

At 1,050 feet is first of two intake pumps that send water to Las Vegas.

If the water level falls anywhere near 1,065 feet, that pump could fail.

Mulroy is pushing a $12 million fix to make sure it doesn't happen.

"The hydrology is getting worse and not better, so in order to protect this community while we finish the third straw it was a necessary thing to do," said Mulroy. 

The cure-all "third straw" Mulroy is referencing is a third intake pump at 800 feet, costing $817 million and is expected to be finished in early 2015.

"We're in the 13th year of one of the worst droughts this river system has ever seen. We've had two of the worst years back-to-back," said Mulroy. 

Nevada is far from the only state being affected by a decrease in supply from the Colorado River. Seven states in the Colorado region, along with Mexico, are coping with shortfalls.

"When we start shorting water to places like Las Vegas or Phoenix, California isn't going to be able to sit aside and say, 'That's OK. Our rights are slightly stronger.' We're going to have to work together to solve this," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. 

Thursday, Mulroy will be presenting a rate increase plan that been in discussions for 18 months to pay for the remedies at Lake Mead.

"We borrowed money and we've got to pay that back, and that understanding (from the public) is going to be crucial," said Mulroy.

Mulroy also made headlines earlier this week after announcing her plans to retire from the SNWA after 22 years of service.

She does not have a specific date in mind, but tells FOX5 it will be sometime in 2014.

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