NPR: Amid a Megadrought, Federal Water Shortage Limits Loom for the Colorado River
The Colorado River is tapped out.
Another dry year has left the watershed that supplies 40 million people in the Southwest parched. A prolonged 21-year warming and drying trend is pushing the nation’s two largest reservoirs to record lows. For the first time, a shortage is expected to be declared by the federal government, this summer.
The 1,450-mile-long waterway acts as a drinking water supply, a hydroelectric power generator and an irrigator of desert crop fields across seven Western U.S. states and two in Mexico. Scientists are increasingly certain that the only way forward is to rein in demands on the river’s water.
With the river’s infrastructure able to cushion against some of the immediate effects, what manifests is a slow-moving crisis. Water managers, farmers and city leaders clearly see the coming challenges but haven’t yet been forced to drastically change their uses.
Extremely dry conditions like the region is experiencing in 2021 make clear that the Colorado River is unable to meet all the demands communities in the Western U.S. have placed on it, and it’s up to its biggest users to decide who has to rely on it less.