Colorado River water levels are down enough to prompt river basin managers to declare a shortage and California to issue water supply alerts.
Colorado River Water Levels Are Down – Way Down
Colorado River water levels are at record lows, dropping Lake Mead to its lowest level since 1937, when the reservoir was first filling after construction. The low levels prompted the US Bureau of Reclamation – the managing authority for the river – to declare a shortage for water users, for the first time in history. The river basin supplies drinking and irrigation water to 40 million users in California, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico. The shortage will affect users in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.
“Reclamation does not take these actions lightly…We do so because it is necessary, protecting the system and implementing the agreements we have in place…This may also mean that additional actions will likely be necessary in the very near future” said Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Camille Touton.
The shortage will hit farmers in Arizona first, as the Central Arizona Project, which draws water from the Colorado River and allows farmers to grow water-intensive crops like alfalfa and cotton in the arid state, will face a 65 percent cut in water supplies. If water levels continue to fall, municipal and industrial users will likely feel the pinch.
Although California was not included in this first round, it prompted Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to issue a water supply alert, which calls for a 15 percent reduction in water use from its users spread out amongst 26 local water agencies. Metropolitan receives water from the Colorado River and from northern California, which is struggling with historically low reservoir levels due to the statewide extreme drought and a limited Sierra snowpack last winter. If water levels in Lake Mead continue to drop, California could be added to the list of states subject to the shortage.
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