SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The federal government on Tuesday announced water cuts to states that depend on the Colorado River as drought and climate change cause less water to flow through it and dry up the reservoirs that store it. It’s a schedule.
The Colorado River supplies water to seven states in the western United States and 40 million people in Mexico, and supports an agricultural industry worth $15 billion annually. Cities and farms in the region are eagerly awaiting official hydrological projections (estimations of future river levels) that will determine the extent and extent of reductions in water supplies.
Water officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming said Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoir in the United States on the Nevada-Arizona border, has reached dangerous levels. We expect federal officials to predict that we will shrink to Interrupting water supplies and hydroelectric production, reducing the amount of water allocated to Arizona and Nevada, and Mexico.
That’s not all. Deadlines imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Rehabilitation Reduce water usage by at least 15% to prevent further drops in river reservoirs.
Forecasts and cutback deadlines present unprecedented challenges for the West, facing tough decisions about how to plan for a drier future.
Kevin Wheeler, a hydrologist at the University of Oxford, said the reclamation department was “very focused on getting through this into next year” but said the cuts would need to be in place longer. .
“What science is contributing is that until we realize that the drought is over, or has actually gotten worse, and the cuts need to go deeper, it’s not that we need to let these cuts go. It’s clear,” he said.
The cuts, which are due to be announced on Tuesday, are based on a plan signed by seven states and Mexico in 2019 to maintain reservoir levels. Under this plan, the amount of water allocated to each state depends on the water level of Lake Mead. Mandatory cuts were made in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico in 2022 as lake levels dropped last year and the federal government declared water scarcity for the first time in history in the region.
Officials expect hydrologists to see further declines in the lake, which will cause additional cuts in Nevada, Arizona and Mexico next year. No reductions are expected in states with high priority water rights.
Twenty-two years of drought, exacerbated by climate change and river abuse, have caused reservoir levels to fall faster than experts predicted for years. Scorching temperatures and less snowmelt in the spring have reduced the amount of water flowing out of the Rockies before the river winds 1,450 miles (2,334 km) southwest and empties into the Gulf of California.
already, unusual action taken This year, it fills Lake Powell, another large reservoir on the Colorado River that straddles the Arizona-Utah border, located upstream from Lake Mead. The lake’s water flows through the Glen Canyon Dam, producing enough electricity to power 1-1.5 million homes each year.
After Lake Powell’s water levels reached levels low enough to threaten hydroelectric production, federal officials decided to build an additional 480,000 acre feet (156 billion gallons or 592 million cubic meters) to allow the dam to continue producing energy. above) withholding water. Its waters usually flow into Lake Mead.
With Tuesday’s cuts, Arizona is expected to lose slightly more water than it did this year, when supplies were cut by 18%. In 2023, it will lose another 3%, for a total reduction of 21% from its original allocation. Farmers in central Arizona will bear the majority of the cuts, as they did this year.
Mexico is expected to lose 7% of the 1.5 million acre feet it receives from the river each year. It fell about 5% last year. This water is the lifeblood of northern desert cities, including Tijuana, and large-scale agriculture in the Mexicali Valley, just south of California’s Imperial Valley border.
Nevada will also lose about 8% of its water supply, but the state reuses most of the water it uses indoors and does not use all of its allotted water, so most residents You don’t feel the effects. Last year the state lost 7%.
Naishadam reported from Washington. The Associated Press is supported by The Walton Family Foundation for its coverage of water and environmental policy. AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s environmental coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment.