Colorado River cuts expected for Arizona, Nevada and Mexico
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The federal government on Tuesday is expected to announce water cuts to states that rely on the Colorado River as drought and climate change leave less water flowing through the river and deplete the reservoirs that store it.
The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people across seven states in the American West as well as Mexico and helps feed an agricultural industry valued at $15 billion a year. Cities and farms across the region are anxiously awaiting official hydrology projections — estimates of future water levels in the river — that will determine the extent and scope of cuts to their water supply.
Water officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are expecting federal officials to project Lake Mead — located on the Nevada-Arizona border and the largest manmade reservoir in the U.S. — to shrink to dangerously low levels that could disrupt water delivery and hydropower production and cut the amount of water allocated to Arizona and Nevada, as well as Mexico.
And that's not all: Officials from the states are also scrambling to meet a deadline imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to slash their water use by at least 15% in order to keep water levels at the river's storage reservoirs from dropping even more.
Together, the projections and the deadline for cuts are presenting Western states with unprecedented challenges and confronting them with difficult decisions about how to plan for a drier future.
While the Bureau of Reclamation is “very focused on just getting through this to next year," any cutbacks will likely need to be in place far longer, said University of Oxford hydrologist Kevin Wheeler.
“What contribution the science makes is, it’s pretty clear that that these reductions just have...