States in the West Face Water Cuts

Environment: NPR


Residents in arizona. Nevada and across the border in mexico will have to cut their water consumption starting next year this the day after the extraordinary announcement by the us government of a first ever water shortage on the colorado river. Here's npr's kirk siegler. Some forty million people and countless farms rely on the colorado river and its tributaries. The shortage comes amidst a mega drought on the river basin. That's so far. Lasted twenty two years and as desert cities like las vegas and phoenix. Continue to grow at among the fastest rates in the us the entire reservoir system including lake mead with it's alarming white bathtub brings behind the hoover dam is now it just forty percent of capacity. Here's the department of interior secretary for water. Tanya trujillo we are seeing the effects of climate change in the colorado river basin through extended drought extreme temperatures extensive wildfires and in some places flooding landslides and now is the time to take action to respond to them. Arizona will be the hardest hit initially with these cuts. Losing almost a fifth of its entire river allotment for now california will not see any cuts because it's water rights are senior under century-old river laws. This shortage is monumental but it was also widely expected western. Water officials have been planning for this eventuality by ramping up conservation and water recycling. Tom bukowski directs arizona's department of water resources. This is a serious turn of events but not a crisis for now. Most cities won't see water. Supplies cut but farmers will in arizona. Thousands of acres of fields are expected to go fallow. Ironically the arid southwest is a huge producer of water intensive crops like cotton and alfalfa water law experts like marks quill lachey at the university of colorado say climate change will force this region to rethink how it uses its limited water. So many people rely on. We can't handle anymore stresses we're looking at a pretty dire situation right now on the river. School laci says climate. Change is drying out the soils and leading to rapid. Evaporation even a near average winters. Like this last one in the rocky mountains where snow melt feeds the river. That dry soils are acting like a sponge and they're soaking up a lot of water before that water can make it into the reservoirs. And that's likely to continue and federal water. Managers warned the shortages to will continue and probably get more severe. They'll reassess whether more cuts are needed in the next year.

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