‘Everyone’s going to have to live with less water’ Interior Department says of Colorado River
SALT LAKE CITY — As the drought crisis intensified across the West, the Department of the Interior Tuesday announced urgent actions to improve and protect the future of the Colorado River System. They’re calling for swift action by everyone in the system.
“The prolonged drought afflicting the west is one of the most significant challenges facing our communities and our country,” Tommy Beaudreau, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior said in a virtual press conference today.
The Colorado River Basin is in the midst of its driest 23-year period on record.
“The growing drought crisis is driven by the effects of climate change, including extreme heat, and low precipitation,” Beaudreau said.
Those drought conditions that have produced historically low water levels in Lakes Powell and Mead. Right now, their combined capacity is only 28%.
“The system is approaching a tipping point, and without action, we cannot protect the system and the millions of Americans who rely on this critical resource,” said Camille Calimlim Touton, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner.
To conserve more water in the entire system, downstream releases from Lakes Powell and Mead will be reduced in the coming water year. Utah water users do not face any specific cuts while lower basin water users will get less water.
“Regardless of plans, everyone’s going to have to live with less water,” said Gene Shawcroft, the Colorado River Commissioner of Utah.
“Utah is fighting aggressively to make sure that we get to use the water we have available for the state of Utah. We don’t expect to use more than our fair share,” he said responding to today’s actions.
He said upper basin states, which includes Utah, have submitted a conservation plan, while the lower basin states have not. Shawcroft said the conservation efforts made by Utahns, and investments by our legislature have made a difference. But, he said that we have entered a new era of conservation.
“In addition to the aggressive measures were taking now, those will have to be stepped up. There’s no question about that,” Shawcroft said.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $8.3 billion for water and power infrastructure. That federal investment should help the Colorado River System with drought resilience and water management.
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