New water cuts announced as Colorado River reaches dangerous level

With water levels in the Colorado River near their lowest on record, Arizona and Nevada faced new restrictions on the amount of water th...


With water levels in the Colorado River near their lowest on record, Arizona and Nevada faced new restrictions on the amount of water they can pump out of the river on Tuesday. , the largest in the southwest.

And the threat of new cuts hovers. This week, those two states, along with five others, missed a deadline for an agreement on much deeper water use cuts, raising the possibility that the federal government will step in and impose further reductions.

Colorado, which provides water to 40 million people in the United States and Mexico and supports billions of dollars in agricultural production across the region, is in the grip of two decades of drought made worse by climate change. In the river’s two huge reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, water levels are only 28% of total capacity due to decreasing river flow and increasing demand.

As the water crisis intensified over the past year, the federal government has for the first time imposed restrictions on the amount of water that can be withdrawn. Tuesday’s cuts are smaller than those set up a year ago and also affect Mexico. And they would be eclipsed by much deeper cuts that the federal government in June asked states to negotiate among themselves and threatened to impose if the States fail to reach an agreement.

Officials said the big cuts – involving 20 to 40 times more water than Tuesday – would be needed next year to protect the reservoirs and the dams that created them and stabilize the water supply. Engineers point out that if water levels continue to drop, the Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell, near the Arizona-Utah border, will eventually be unable to generate hydroelectricity.

“States have collectively failed to identify and enact actions of a meaningful scale that would stabilize the system,” Camille Camlimlim Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency empowered to impose cuts, said in a briefing. press conference.

Negotiations between the seven states have progressed slowly, marked by the kind of finger-pointing that has complicated Western water rights talks for much of the last century. John Entsminger, chief executive of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, in a letter to Ms Touton and other officials this week, said that despite the obvious urgency of the situation, the negotiations had produced “exactly nothing in terms of meaningful collective action to help avert the impending crisis.

In an interview after Tuesday’s announcement, Entsminger said the Bureau of Reclamation appeared to be encouraging states to keep negotiating. “But they are also starting to take the necessary steps to put in place the tools they say they need to enforce these cuts,” he said.

Jennifer Pitt, director of the Colorado River program at the National Audubon Society, said there has been intense pressure on all stakeholders to come up with a plan for the steep cuts. “The water just isn’t there,” she said. “That’s the stone-cold reality, and no amount of political politics can change that.”

Tuesday The announcement of the cuts was triggered by the fact that Lake Mead, the huge reservoir behind the Hoover Dam on the Arizona-Nevada border, is now about 175 feet lower than it was. was in 2000, when the current Southwestern drought has begunnm

Combined with the deeper cuts imposed last year, the new cuts mean that Arizona will have access to 21% less water per year, compared to its historical allocation. Nevada’s total cuts are now about 8% of its allocation. Total Mexico Cups 7 percent of its allocated supply.

Entsminger said conservation measures already taken in Las Vegas and surrounding cities, including a recent water-hogging turf ban which serves no purpose other than decoration, would allow the inhabitants to support the new cuts.

In Arizona, the cuts have so far largely affected farmers in the central part of the state, who have had to fallow fields or turn to less water-intensive crops to get by. Some farmers have left the business altogether.

When it comes to the deep cuts demanded by Ms Touton, farmers are also expected to be the most affected. Agriculture uses about three-quarters of Colorado’s supply.

During discussions of the cuts, some farm groups floated the idea that farmers would be compensated for taking some of their land out of production to conserve water. There is money in the Inflation Reduction Act that was just signed that could potentially be used for such a program.

The call for deeper reductions reflects the Bureau of Reclamation’s deep concerns about the ability to maintain safe operations and generate hydroelectricity as runoff in Colorado continues to decline.

The loss of a steady supply of electricity from the Glen Canyon Dam could make the Western power grid less stable. And the dam’s ability to pass any water downstream could be threatened.

Mr Entsminger said that despite the dire situation, he believed an agreement between states to deal with the crisis remained unlikely. “I feel like we haven’t reached the point where every water user on the river accepts that everyone has to be part of this solution,” he said.

Ms Pitt said that if the states came back to office in a month or two with a plan of cuts, “the federal government, I’m sure, would be happy to take that because no elected leader wants to be responsible for the decide who will not have access to water.

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Newsrust - US Top News: New water cuts announced as Colorado River reaches dangerous level
New water cuts announced as Colorado River reaches dangerous level
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