Monday, January 23, 2017

Western drought watchers eye Lake Mead water level

Arizona would be the first state to feel the effects of Colorado River cutbacks if the water level continues to fall at drought-stricken Lake Mead, an environmental advocacy group says in a new report. The Western Resource Advocates reached its conclusion as the vast reservoir behind Hoover Dam sits at 39 percent of capacity. The group concluded that farmers would be first to feel the pinch; that suburban growth in Phoenix and Tucson could be slowed by cutbacks; and the cities themselves could face water reductions by 2020. "These cuts are looming because Arizona's 'bank' for 40 percent of its water supply, Lake Mead, is being drained faster than it can be filled," said the report titled "Arizona's Water Future: Colorado River Shortage, Innovative Solutions, and Living Well with Less." "Lake Mead has this growing bathtub ring, even though everyone is using their legal amounts of water," said Drew Beckwith, an executive with the organization. Central Arizona Project official Chuck Cullom said water managers have known for years that more river water is promised to users than enters the system — even in non-drought years. He said Arizona is not alone. The Colorado River brings Rocky Mountain snowmelt from headwaters in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico downstream to Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. "There is a structural deficit that poses risk to all water users," Cullom said...more

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