Find us @

Feature

Crippling drought in Colorado resulted in Western United States issues a water cut

The Bureau of Reclamation relies on the Colorado River, but it has not been able to reach an agreement until Tuesday. The federal government stepped in on Tuesday and took action that will affect two

Published

on

The federal government intervened on Tuesday and announced water use restrictions that will effect two states and Mexico after western US states failed to come to an agreement to minimize their reliance on the ailing Colorado River.

As the drought continues to batter the American west, driving its major reservoirs to unprecedented lows, Bureau of Reclamation officials declared a “tier 2” shortage in the river basin. The generation of hydroelectric power, drinking water, and agricultural output are all still at risk due to the dwindling water levels, which have revealed buried graves and other artifacts as well as stunning bathtub ring patterns in reservoirs.

M. Camille Calimlim Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, stated during a news conference on Tuesday that “the system is approaching a tipping point” and that immediate action was needed. The inhabitants of the American West must be protected in order to preserve the system.

The new reductions will decrease the water share for Mexico by 7%, Nevada by 8%, and Arizona by 21%, but officials are worried that additional reductions will be required. Officials in those states will be under extreme pressure to prepare for a hotter, drier future and a larger population as a result of the reduction.

The Colorado River helps feed an agricultural sector worth $15 billion annually and supplies water to 40 million people in seven western states of the United States and Mexico. Before it flows into Mexico, the vast system supplies water to Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah.

After agreements made a century ago failed to adequately account for the water in the system and produced a confusing web of junior and senior water rights that excluded Indigenous people, the rights to these waters have been a topic of discussion for decades. But the most tense time is probably still to come. Deeper cuts and conservation will be required as the climate catastrophe is predicted to worsen existing situations.

The breadth and scope of water supply reductions will be determined by official hydrology projections, which are forecasts of future river water levels. Cities and farmers around the region are already anticipating these projections with trepidation. The breadbasket of the US is anticipated to see hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland left fallow, which will put pressure on domestically produced food.

In order to stabilize the system, Touton claimed that “the states collectively have not identified and enacted precise actions of sufficient magnitude.”

According to Touton, the additional cut is required to prevent interruptions in the delivery of water and hydroelectric power. If the states were unable to come to an agreement, she was ambiguous on Tuesday about whether she intended to impose those cuts unilaterally.

Although she frequently declined to say how much time the states would have to accomplish the agreement she wanted in June, she highlighted cooperation between federal authorities and their colleagues in the seven states and Mexico.

The river’s reservoirs have been depleted for years as a result of cities and agriculture using more water than is actually flowing through the river.

Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico were subjected to mandatory water cuts for the first time last year after more than 20 years of drought. While residents of the region’s expanding cities have been subjected to conservation measures including bans on grass lawns, some of the region’s farmers have been compensated to leave their fields fallow.

But so far, those actions have not been sufficient.

The issue has reduced the water level at Lake Mead, the biggest man-made reservoir in the country, to less than one-fourth of capacity.

The probable disruption of electricity and water distribution has also prompted the federal administration to take such urgent measures.

Meanwhile, the 24 million acre-foot Lake Powell is going through a similar crisis, according to a July article in the Guardian, which suggested that energy production would stop as early as July 2023.

The first tier 2 shortage in the nation was declared in response to an interior department forecast that Lake Mead’s level on 1 January would be lower than 1,050 feet above sea level.

The estimated water surface elevation of Lake Powell is 3,522 feet, just 32 feet above the required level for hydroelectric operations to produce energy.

According to a statement from Tanya Trujillo, assistant secretary for water and science at the interior department, “every sector in every state has a responsibility to ensure that water is used with optimum efficiency.” “Water use in the basin must be decreased to prevent a catastrophic breakdown of the Colorado river system and a future of uncertainty and war.”

Last year, the seven states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming received warnings from the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to get ready for emergency cuts. Officials warned the states in June that if they don’t figure out a way to consume 15% less water in 2019, they risk having their budgets reduced.

States with varied priorities for the water they receive have become tense as a result of the situation, and negotiations have produced no resolution.

“Many diverse interests are at odds with one another. Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, told the Los Angeles Times that there are many obstacles to be overcome as well as a great deal of enmity.

Now that the deadline for the seven Colorado River states to reduce water use by 25% has passed, the bureau must determine the next actions the reclamation bureau commissioner, Camille Touton, can take.

According to some analysts, additional cuts are unavoidable and may have an impact on states further along the basin, such as California.

The western states are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the dire hydrological estimates and the deadline for reduction, and they must make challenging decisions about how to prepare for a future that will be drier.

Some analysts believe that today’s action is merely a temporary solution. According to University of Oxford hydrologist Kevin Wheeler, the USBR is “quite focused on simply getting through this to next year,” but any cuts would likely need to stay in place for a much longer.

The science’s contribution is that it’s very obvious that these reductions must continue until the drought has ended or we understand they must worsen and the cuts must be made deeper, he said.

A 2019 pact was signed by the seven states and Mexico to assist in keeping reservoir levels. The amount of water allotted to the states under that arrangement is based on Lake Mead’s water level.

The lake’s level dropped last year to the point where the federal government declared the region’s first-ever water shortage, which will require mandatory first-wave water cuts for Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico starting in 2022.

Due to the 22-year drought that has been made worse by the climate emergency and overuse of the river, reservoir levels have been disastrously declining for years.

The amount of water flowing from the Rocky Mountains, where the Colorado River rises before winding 1,450 miles (2,334 km) south-west and into the Gulf of California, has also decreased as a result of less snow melting in the spring.

This article was contributed to by The Associated Press.