Drought causes millions to face risk of water restrictions

West

(NewsNation) — Drought conditions in many areas have caused a supply shortage of the cruelest kind, centered around something all humans need to survive — water. The Colorado River has declined so much that major water cuts will be necessary, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

It’s part of a climate change-driven megadrought, Axios reported, that has also brought the nation’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, to historic lows.

“That’s what we’re in — 22 years of it, it’s not likely to change anytime soon,” Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River District, said. “For every degree that the temperatures have risen, we have seen about a 9% drop in the flow of our rivers. So at the same time, they were overusing the supply that was diminishing.”

The Colorado River, which flows for about 1,450 miles, provides water to seven states in the Western U.S. that are considered part of the Colorado River Basin, according to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. These states are Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California and Nevada. That’s about 40 million people who rely on the river water, according to ProPublica.

NPR reported in April that California, Arizona and Nevada have been trying to conserve water by recycling it, making rules against using it on lawns and really stretching out their water supply. One water official NPR talked to said more restrictions could be in store if reserves continue to dry up.

Water is essential for everyone,but for farmers and ranchers, it’s an absolute lifeline. About 80% of the Colorado River is used for agriculture, Bronson Mack, with the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told NewsNation. Much of it is used for forage crops like alfalfa, which is grown for cattle, per Axios.

“That agriculture absolutely does provide a benefit to our country,” Mack said. “It is incumbent upon everybody that uses Colorado River water in all of the seven states and the country of Mexico to continue to stay on the path of conservation and really, we need to all be doing more.”

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