Water crisis could impact rest of nation

Climate

This April 10, 2022 image shows sand bars developing in the Rio Grande on the northern edge of Albuquerque, N.M. Irrigation districts from the Pacific Northwest to the Colorado River Basin already are warning farmers to expect less water this year despite growing demands fueled by ever-drying conditions. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

(NewsNation) — A water crisis in the West is set to trickle down to consumers throughout the country with likely changes in produce costs.

The new federal cuts in water supply from the Colorado River will mean another big blow to already-struggling farmers.

Almost 40 million people ion the Southwest rely on water from the Colorado River but drought has it running low, resulting in low reservoir levels.

“Both Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two largest reservoirs in the United States, are at historically low levels with combined storage of 28% of their capacity,” said Camille Calimlim Touton, commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation. “The system is approaching a tipping point and without action we cannot protect the system.”

New federal action to protect the river system will mean additional water supply cuts starting next year to Nevada and Arizona.

Food and agriculture expert Kathleen Merrigan predicts that a dwindling in domestic farming will mean more reliance on imports.

“Nowadays, we’re importing fruits and vegetables even when we’re growing them in this country at the same time,” she said.

The impact of less domestic produce will be felt by consumers far beyond the West, according to University of Arizona Professor Jeff Silvertooth.

“Over 95% of the United States and Canada, from November to March every year, those leafy green vegetables are coming out of the lower Colorado River valley,” he said.

The lack of an agreement among seven western states on emergency water reductions may force the federal government to step in again with even deeper cuts.

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