States Prepare to Reduce Use of Colorado River Water

The Colorado River supplies water to several states in the American Southwest, including Southern California.

But more than 20 years of dry conditions and rapid population growth are forcing change. States using the river must negotiate again a 100 year old agreement, the Colorado River Compact. this agreement definitely how much water different areas in each state can use.

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When the pact was first signed in the 1920s, the climate in the area was different. Because of this, the people who created the pact misjudged how much water people would be using. Now the demand for water is greater than the supply from the river.

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Two reservoirs are important parts of the water supply of the states of California, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and New Mexico. The reservoirs are called Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

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In 2000, both reservoirs were about 95 percent full. But now they’re only about 27 percent full.

A formerly sunken boat stands upright along the shore in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, June 10, 2022 (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

A formerly sunken boat stands upright along the shore in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, June 10, 2022 (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

The US Bureau of Reclamation is a federal agency that oversees the use of water in many areas, including the Colorado River area.

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton told a US Senate committee that water use must be reduced next year.

She also told the states that are part of the Colorado River Basin to submit plans by August for how much water they would cut next year. Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming submitted plans. California, Nevada and Arizona do not have this.

The bureau can decide how much to cut, but it gives states more time to finalize their plans. The bureau wants states to reduce their water use by 15 to 30 percent.

In addition, 14 Native American tribes sent a letter to the bureau expressing their concern. They said they were not involved in negotiations about how much water each area would get. Native American tribes were also not included when the pact was first signed in 1922.

Agriculture uses most of the water

It is estimated that around 70 to 80 percent of the river’s water is used for agriculture. California uses a lot of it allocation Water for agriculture and for an area of ​​Southern California that is home to about half of the state’s 39 million people. California has the largest population of any US state.

California also leads the US in farm-grown food sales. It sells its fruits, vegetables, and animal products to all parts of the United States

Due to a series of court cases, laws and agreements, Arizona and Nevada, two states that border California, must cut their water use before California does.

Without the waters of the Colorado River, southern California, including the city of Los Angeles, would lose about a third of its water supply. Also, a large agricultural area in southeastern California called the Imperial Irrigation District would become dry.

Areas using the Colorado water are trying to reduce their consumption. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada has banned weed in many areas, e.g. B. Grass Lawn in front of office buildings. However, single-family homes are allowed to keep their lawn.

The Southern Nevada Water Agency has even paid homeowners to remove their lawns.

The city of San Diego in Southern California has built a large plant that turns seawater into drinking water. Other methods of reducing water consumption include using dirty water, called waste water, e.g landscaping. And the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California limited outdoor water use to one day a week this summer.

The US Congress has approved $4 billion for Colorado River-related projects. California state officials could use some of that money to pay farmers to use less water.

I’m Andrew Smith.

This story was adapted by Andrew Smith for VOA Learning English. It was adapted from stories for the Associated Press by Kathleen Ronayne, Chris Outcalt, and Brittany Peterson.


words in this story

negotiate -v. to make or attempt an agreement, often for a contract between governments or for a business arrangement

determine -v. to decide, control or influence the outcome

reservoir -n. a large area built or shaped to contain water, e.g. B. behind a dam

allocation -n. a portion or portion of a total to be shared – for example, an allotment of land, an allotment of money, water, and the like

Lawn -n. an area of ​​grass near a house or building

landscaping -n. the design of the area outside a building or house, e.g. B. a garden, a lawn or a mixture of trees and small plants


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