Conditions on the over-taxed Colorado River have improved dramatically over the past year, but not enough to stave off voluntary cutbacks for some water users in the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico.
A federal report released Thursday says the water level in Lake Mead, the biggest reservoir on the river, is expected to be slightly below 1,090 feet above sea level on Jan. 1.
That's nearly 15 feet higher than projected last year, thanks to a snowy winter. It means river users will avoid tougher mandatory cutbacks.
But it's low enough for Mexico and the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada to make voluntary reductions from their share of water, which they agreed to in March.
The Colorado River serves 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming as well as Mexico.