Friday June 14, 2024

Circle of Blue

As the Colorado River declines, one fundamental question hangs over the Southwest’s most important waterway: can its people and industries slash their water use, thus aligning their water demands with a shrinking supply?

The answer so far – with important caveats – is a clear but qualified ‘yes.’

The latest evidence: the three lower basin states of Arizona, California, and Nevada whittled their take from the river last year. Their combined consumption of just under 5.8 million acre-feet is the lowest annual total since 1983. That represents a decline of 13 percent compared to 2022, when Lake Mead, the basin’s largest reservoir hit a record low and a simmering crisis morphed into a full-blown emergency.

The 2023 water consumption numbers are detailed in a Bureau of Reclamation report published last month. Reclamation is the federal agency that oversees the basin.

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