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The West is currently in the middle of a severe drought, and Lake Powell, the region’s second-largest reservoir, is at its lowest level in decades. The lake, located on the Colorado River, is effectively a human-made storage basin that keeps the regional water supply in balance under the 100-year-old Colorado River Compact. It’s where water is released to the compact’s lower states (Arizona, California and Nevada) from upper states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming). That balance is off, and officials just “pulled the emergency lever:” they released water from reservoirs upstream in order to keep drinking water and hydropower flowing.
Why This Matters: Water levels this low are a threat to both water supplies for 40 million people as well as the ability to generate power. Years of overuse colliding with the climate change-fueled drought could blow up the seven-state water-sharing deal. “If the water levels fall below 3,525 feet in Lake Powell and the agreement falls apart, it could “potentially lead to seven-state litigation, which we’ve never seen before on [the] Colorado River,” Amy Ostdiek, deputy section chief of the federal, interstate and water information section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, told Colorado Public Radio. “Which would create a lot of uncertainty. It would probably be a very long, drawn out process.”
Troubled Waters: Lake Powell isn’t the only reservoir in trouble. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir that also pulls from the Colorado River, also hit a record low this summer. A new coalition is calling for a stop to plans that would take more water from the river, including proposed dams and pipelines across the river basin.
“We’ve got farmers. We’ve got enviros. We’ve got businesses. We’re the type of coalition that they say can’t be put together. But we’re here to say, damn the status quo. No more business as usual,” Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, said at a recent news conference. “Why? Because we’re failing. It’s plain and simple.”
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would extend the drought emergency statewide and issued an executive order to have residents conserve water. As part of this effort, eight new counties were added to the state of emergency, and authorized the State Water Resources Control Board was authorized to […]
By Elizabeth Love, ODP Contributing Writer Authorities in the Canadian Arctic territory Nunavut, announced a state of emergency this week due to a possible contamination event affecting the City of Iqaluit’s water supply. Tests were performed after residents reported the smell of gasoline coming from their tap water, but they came back clean. However, […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer For 40 million people living in the Western US, the Colorado River basin is their source of water supply and last month, the federal government declared a water shortage on the river for the first time. Within the basin, Thirty Native tribes have recognized rights to more than one-fifth […]
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