Drought and water constraints on the Colorado River in the western United States

The new water restrictions will hit states in the Colorado Basin, a major river in the American West, that are suffering from an unprecedented drought. On Tuesday, August 16, Camille Duden, director of the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that manages water and dams, said the region is entering its twenty-third year of raging drought. “Point of no return”.

Read more The article is reserved for our subscribers In the American West, a thousand-year drought with unprecedented consequences

It contains two of the nation’s largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead “Historically low”, he added that exceptional measures are needed to guarantee hydropower generation. The office announced “Type 2 Deficiency”It would also allow Arizona and Nevada to reduce their consumption starting in January 2023. Mexico is also affected.

The Colorado, 2,320 km long, supplies water and hydropower to 40 million people in seven states and 29 Indian tribes. The distribution of the river’s annual flow was defined by the Colorado Compact of 1922, signed with Mexico. The agreement provides a unity mechanism between the states in the upper basin – the first along the river’s path (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico) – and the lower basin (Arizona, Nevada, California). Northern states should allow enough water to flow so that southern states do not face shortage.

Read more The Colorado, an endangered river

In 2019, the drought forced negotiations on a more emergency plan to save reservoirs threatened with falling below levels needed for hydropower generation. According to the contract, the controls trigger a mechanism once the level drops below 325 m (1,066 ft) in Lake Mead, about 50 km from Las Vegas. It should be operational in 2021 for the first time since the Hoover Dam opened in 1935. Arizona lost 18% of its water allocation, Nevada 3%. This summer, Lake Mead is only 27% full of its capacity. By January 2023, the bureau predicts this level will drop below 316 m (1,040 ft).

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California was not affected at this time

The upstream lake on the border between Utah and Arizona is at 26% of its capacity, the lowest since Glen Canyon Dam opened in 1964. Authorities have taken extraordinary measures to ensure continued power supply to turbines that generate electricity for 1.5 million homes. They held back 592 million cubic meters of water that should have fed the Colorado, further reducing the flow to Lake Mead.

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