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US West Expecting 1st Water Shortage Declaration

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has released its 24-month water projections, and things are not looking good. Water levels in two lakes used to store water for millions of people in the U.S. West are expected to fall to historic lows, likely prompting the agency to declare an official shortage for the first time.

Lake Mead is projected to fall below 1,075 feet (328 meters) for the first time this June. Doing so would prompt a shortage declaration under agreements between the seven states relying on Colorado River water: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The declaration would mean mandatory restrictions for some states, most notably Arizona, who could lose one-third of its supply.

“The study, while significant, is not a surprise. It reflects the impacts of the dry and warm conditions across the Colorado River Basin this year, as well as the effects of a prolonged drought that has impacted the Colorado River water supply,” officials from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project said in a joint statement. “The results continue to show a very high likelihood of Tier 1 reductions in 2022 and 2023, as well as an increasing risk of Tier 2 conditions in the near future.  We are prepared for these conditions, thanks in large part to Arizona’s unique collaborative efforts among water leaders including tribes, cities, agriculture, industry and environmental organizations that developed innovative conservation and mitigation programs as part of the implementation of the Drought Contingency Plan.”

The projections are in line with a recent report warning of an emerging “megadrought.” Currently, the U.S. Drought Monitor places 60% of the Western states under severe, extreme or exceptional drought. Water conservation is going to be key in the years ahead.



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