The federal government of the United States announced this Monday (16) that Lake Mead, the country’s largest dam, will operate in 2022 under historical conditions of water scarcity, impacting two western states of the country and Mexico.
The projections arise from the biannual study, which analyzes conditions in the Colorado River basin.
“The Colorado River system is currently at 40% of its capacity, a reduction comparable to the 49% recorded at this time last year,” announced the agency in charge of water resources, under the Ministry of Interior.
Lake Mead, a reservoir located on the border between Nevada and Arizona, supplies millions of people in the west of the country and is at its lowest level since its creation in the 1930s.
Lake Powell, the country’s second reservoir, also fed by the Colorado River, also reached its lowest level: 32 percent of its capacity.
“Since 2000, the reduction of the Colorado River dams has been dramatic and scientists studying climate change have had no end in sight,” said Jennifer Pitt, program director for the Colorado River for the Audubon organization, in a statement.
“Like much of the (American) West, the Colorado River is facing unprecedented and accelerating challenges,” said Tanya Trujillo, assistant secretary for Water and Science at the federal water resources agency.
According to projections, by 2022 the contingency plan will require a reduction of about 18% from the annual allocation for Arizona; 7% for Nevada; and 5% for Mexico.
Seven US states and Mexico signed agreements for water management in the Colorado River basin. “While these agreements have reduced the risk, we have not eliminated the continuing reduction of these important reserves,” said Camille Touton, also of the federal water resources agency.
The western United States is suffering the effects of chronic drought exacerbated by climate change, with lakes at historically low levels, unusually early forest fires, restrictions on water use and now a potentially record-breaking heat wave.
“Worldwide, 800 million people are at risk of chronic water shortages due to drought caused by a 2°C increase in temperature,” according to a report by United Nations climate experts, obtained in July by AFP.
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