The water situation in the Western U.S. is getting dire. Man-made lakes that supply water to many residents of the Western U.S. and Mexico are shrinking, and are expected to reach historic lows in the next few months.
These dangerously low levels of water could soon prompt the federal government to issue a water shortage declaration, which would lead to water cuts in Arizona and Nevada.
The shrinking water levels, and potential water shortage declaration, comes as a result of less water entering these lakes from the Colorado River. Climate change has led to less snowpack flowing into the river overall. In addition, hotter temperatures have caused more of the water to evaporate as it travels through arid, parched regions of the West.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects that one of these man-made lakes, Lake Mead, will fall below 1,075 feet for the first time this June. At this level, as agreed upon by the seven states that rely on Colorado River water, a shortage declaration will be made. Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming will all face potential mandatory water reductions starting the following January.
Arizona and Nevada, which both use the Colorado River as their primary water source, could stand to lose a significant portion of their water supply (18% in the case of Arizona).
The ongoing drought in the Colorado River Basin has led some of the states in the American West to take certain preparation measures to avoid an official shortage declaration. Both Arizona and Nevada have voluntarily given up water, and alternate sources of water are being sought. In Nevada, the main water agency has developed “straws” to draw water from further down in Lake Mead as its levels fall. Recycled water is also being used.
Still, it is important that residents of the Western U.S. that rely on water from the Colorado River find ways to conserve it. As Lake Mead levels drop, not only is water supply threatened, so is the generation of electricity at Hoover Dam. Less water moving through the Hoover Dam means there is less hydropower generated, limiting the supply of another much-needed resource for millions of people in Arizona, California, and Nevada.
According to Lincoln County Power District General Manager Dave Luttrell, “Rural economies in Arizona and Nevada live and die by the hydropower that is produced at Hoover Dam. It might not be a big deal to NV Energy. It might be a decimal point to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. But for Lincoln County, it adds huge impact.”
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