For the second year in a row, Arizona and Nevada will face cuts to the amount of water they can draw from the Colorado River as the West grapples with severe drought, federal officials announced Tuesday. The Associated Press reports: The cuts planned for next year will force states to make important decisions about where to cut consumption and whether to prioritize growing cities or agricultural areas. The cuts will also put new pressure on government officials to plan for a hotter, drier future and a growing population. Mexico will also face cuts. “We are taking steps to protect the 40 million people whose lives and livelihoods depend on the Colorado River,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Tuton.
The river supplies water to seven states and Mexico and helps feed an agricultural industry estimated at $15 billion a year. Towns and farms are anxiously awaiting official estimates of future river levels that will determine the extent and extent of reductions in their water supplies. That’s not all. In addition to the cuts already agreed upon, the Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that states missed a deadline to propose at least the 15 percent additional cuts needed to keep water levels in the river’s reservoirs from dropping even further. For example, officials predicted that water levels in Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, would drop further. The lake is now less than a quarter full. “States have not collectively identified and adopted concrete measures of sufficient scale that would stabilize the system,” Toton said.