The Colorado River, which supplies drinking water to 40 million people in seven US states, is drying up, putting pressure on a water distribution agreement during the worst drought in 12 centuries, which is made worse by climate change.
Tuesday saw a break-up between California and the six other states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming due to a deadline set by the federal government for the states to negotiate their supply cuts or risk being forced to make obligatory reductions.
Kevin Moran, an expert in water policy at the Environmental Defense Fund, declared that “what transpired today was a step forward.”
After 20 years of drought and the effects of climate change, “six of the seven basin states are playing catch-up” to minimize their reliance on Colorado River water, according to Moran, who spoke to Reuters.
The river was supposed to be able to supply 20 million acre-feet of water annually when the states came to their agreement 100 years ago. Two urban houses can typically be supplied with an acre-foot (1,233 cubic meters) of water annually.
However, during the past 20 years, the real flow has decreased to an average of 12.5 million acre-feet, giving state water managers greater rights on paper than the available supply.
California receives the greatest allocation, with its $50 billion agricultural sector consuming 80% of it. According to many analysts, its move to ignore the deal increases the likelihood that the water conflict will ultimately end up in the nation’s highest courts.
According to David Hayes, a lecturer at Stanford University Law School, “We have a scenario where some of the water rights holders in California are declaring that they are unwilling to give up additional water and that they believe they have legal standing to sue if necessary.”
Adding, “And there isn’t enough time to litigate these issues,” Hayes, a former senior climate adviser to President Joe Biden
He realized that urgent conservation measures were required to save reservoirs from overuse and droughts made worse by climate change, which, if left unchecked, may jeopardize the flow of water from the Hoover Dam to the city of Las Vegas or California.
Despite seven atmospheric rivers that flooded California for weeks starting in late December, some locations received up to 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, but very little of that fell in the Colorado River basin.
California cannot resolve its long-term crisis without significant investments to capture more stormwater, repair flood plains, and recycle wastewater, despite predictions for more such atmospheric rivers, of escalating size and frequency.
According to a survey published in the Nature journal last year, the years 2000 to 2021 were the driest 22 years for the southwest of North America in at least 1,200 years.
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The head of the University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center, Sharon Megdal, remarked that “something will have to go.”
Mountains’ spring snowpack melts more quickly as temperatures rise, and the state is unable to store the resulting runoff.
According to a letter from the six states, which they all signed, they all agreed that delivery methods from the Colorado River needed to alter, she continued.
People would like to believe, according to Megdal, “that we can somehow find a way to preserve our economic activities, keep our kind of economies and livelihoods alive.” However, the future will be drier.