Around forty million Americans living in seven states rely on the water flowing through the Colorado River. Before the federal government stepped in, it asked the states to come up with an agreement on their own on how to cut their water use by at least 15 percent.
The western states failed to meet a federal deadline for the agreement.
"The states collectively have not identified and adopted specific actions of sufficient magnitude that would stabilize the system," warned Camille Touton of the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation.
"In order to avoid a catastrophic collapse of the Colorado River System and a future of uncertainty and conflict, water use in the Basin must be reduced," said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo of the Department of the Interior. (Related: WATER WARS are about to erupt in America as dwindling supplies lead to legal clashes among western states.)
For years, cities and farms have diverted more water from the river than actually flows through it, depleting reservoirs and raising questions about how the remaining water would be divided if the water becomes scarce.
Some western states have instituted mandatory water cuts for the first time this year, but state officials in the region have been unable to come up with a region-wide agreement on water use.
To this end, the Interior Department announced water supply reductions on Tuesday, Aug. 16, which will go into effect next year.
Arizona will be the hardest hit by these reductions as it stands to lose 80,000 acre-feet of water – 21 percent less than its total share, but only three percent less than what it is expected to receive this year.
Nevada will lose about eight percent of its supply, but most residents will not feel any effects because the state recycles the majority of the water used indoors and does not use its full allocation of water. This follows a seven percent cut in water deliveries last year.
Mexico will lose seven percent of the water it receives each year from the Colorado River. Last year, the U.S. cut water deliveries to its southern neighbor by about five percent. Desert cities in northwestern Mexico, including Tijuana and Mexicali, rely heavily on water deliveries from the United States.
California, the biggest user of the Colorado River's water and the most populous state in the west, will not be affected by any water cuts next year.
The federal government claimed that California was spared any water cuts because it has more senior water rights than Arizona and Nevada, meaning that it will be one of the last states to give up any water. Officials from other western states have criticized this development.
"It is unacceptable for Arizona to continue to carry a disproportionate burden of reductions for the benefit of others who have not contributed," said Arizona's Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke and Central Arizona Project General Manager Ted Cooke, in a joint statement.
Before the federal intervention, Arizona and Nevada came up with a mutual plan that would have been close to proportional to water use, but both the Reclamation Bureau and the state government of California rejected the deal.
Learn more about the water supply problems in America at WaterWars.news.
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