Global climate change is not only threatening the habitats of salmon and polar bears, but that of humans in a large portion of the US. The water from the Colorado River feeds both the population and the agriculture of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and parts of New Mexico, Wyoming and California (as well as a bit of Mexico).
The usage of the water was codified about a century ago during a “wet” period, and like in the show, The Producers", more than the whole was accounted for. That brings us to today, when all parties are clamoring for their “fair shares” and there is simply not enough to go around.
It was just a year ago that the Department of Interior declared the first shortage on the Colorado River – a Tier 1. But the past 12 months did not bring enough rain and snow. A report from July shows Lake Mead, which the agency uses to determine shortage conditions, is hovering around 1,040 feet above sea level, after having dropped 10 feet in just two, dry months.
The reservoir is at just 27% of its full capacity.
Tuesday’s report is all but certain to show Lake Mead will be below 1,050 feet come January – the threshold required to declare a Tier 2 shortage beginning in 2023. The question is how far below that threshold it will be. If the forecast is below 1,045 feet, which recent forecasts would suggest it will be, then mandatory water cuts will expand beyond Arizona, Nevada and Mexico and into California for the first time.
But the growing concern is that the mandatory cuts – a system that was updated as recently as 2019 – aren’t enough to save the river in the face of a historic, climate change-driven drought. States, water managers and tribes are now back at the negotiating table to figure out how to solve the West’s water crisis.
Can’t get blood - or water - from a stone