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Government Declares First Ever Water Shortage At Lake Mead Amid Historic Drought

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Harry Wilmerding Contributor
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The federal government declared an official water shortage for the first time in history for the Lake Mead reservoir in Nevada on Monday, bringing supply cuts to states in the Southwest.

The shortage will reduce water distribution in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico beginning in October, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said in a statement.

Arizona’s annual supply will be cut by 18%, while Nevada will see a 7% reduction, according to the statement. Water distribution to Mexico, required under the 1944 Water Treaty, will undergo a 5% reduction. (RELATED: Heat Wave Worsens Across Western US As States See Triple-Digit Heat)

“Today’s announcement of a Level 1 Shortage Condition at Lake Mead underscores the value of the collaborative agreements we have in place with the seven basin states, Tribes, water users and Mexico in the management of water in the Colorado River Basin,” Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Camille Touton said in the press release.

“While these agreements and actions have reduced risk, we have not eliminated the potential for continued decline of these critically important reservoirs,” she added.

The Upper Basin experienced an unusually dry spring in 2021 as runoff in April and July totaled 26% of the historical average, according to the press release. The Colorado River system is now at 40% capacity,  down from 49% one year ago.

In a bipartisan letter, 10 governors wrote to President Joe Biden on Sunday, requesting that he declare a federal drought disaster in their respective states, arguing that without “substantial assistance,” communities relying on agricultural and natural resources will require years to recover from the drought, heat and wildfires.

“Beyond the impact on those industries and communities, the drought will have serious downstream impacts on the security of our food, fiber and energy production, both regionally and nationally,” the governors wrote in the letter. “Those impacts include low or dried up reservoirs, increased algal blooms, and decrease in hydroelectric power and the potential of shuttering hydroelectric dams because of low water levels.”

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