Research, Technology

Five US states may be left without drinking water - what happened to the Colorado River?

River over 2,000 km long in the western United Statesprovides water to more than 40 million people, as well as more than two million hectares of agricultural land. However, due to the drought, which has become the worst in at least the last 1200 years, the flow of water has been reduced to an unprecedented low level. As we said earlier, the drought will last for more than one year. Already last year, many farmers had to stop irrigating their fields because of the drought. This year, the situation has become even worse - the water level in the most important river reservoirs has dropped catastrophically, despite a number of measures that, according to experts, should have strengthened water resources. Can a few US states be left without drinking water at all?

The Colorado River has become record shallow in 2022, many states are reducing water use

Why the drying up of the Coloroda River will be a disaster for the US

For more than a century, the waters of the Colorado River have contributed todevelopment of states in the western United States. Massive hydroelectric dams created Lake Mead and Powell. These power plants provide electricity to more than 2.5 million homes.

In addition, major cities such as San Diego,Las Vegas, Tucson, and many others get most of their drinking water from Colorado. The river also provides water for irrigation, turning completely dry land into fertile fields where food is grown for the whole country.

Water levels in Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US, are at an all-time low

Of course, in the history of this river there have already been bothperiods of abundance of water, when the level rose above the norm, and its deficit. Dams and reservoirs along its banks helped to smooth out the huge fluctuations in the level, as they stored water during rainy and snowy years, and, if necessary, released them. In this way, it was possible to provide water to arid regions even in times of drought.

However, the current drought has been sostrong that no measures helped. Scientists suggest that the situation is greatly exacerbated by global warming. As a result, the Colorado can no longer feed Lake Mead and Powell. At present, no more than 25% of the water from the norm is already left of them.

Drying up of the Colorado River threatens state infrastructure

Water shortage problems in the Colorado River authoritiesThe US took care of it 100 years ago. In 2022, a pact was concluded between the states that regulated the water consumption of each state. In addition, under the 1944 treaty, a certain part of the waters must be sent to Mexico.

However, estimates of the river flow 100 years ago turned out to betoo optimistic for our times. Due to climate change, the volume of water has been constantly decreasing for the last hundred years. Moreover, scientists have been warning for a long time that the volume of water in the near future may be reduced by 20-30 percent. As a result, the forecasts were confirmed - since 2000, the river has lost 20% of its flow.

Some U.S. states have already cut their water supply.

Although the volume of water has decreased,The state's demand for water has not decreased. However, over the past 20 years, difficult and sometimes even painful reductions in water consumption have already been made due to falling levels in Lakes Mead and Powell. But as early as 2019, it became clear that even more aggressive action might be required. This forced the states to agree on a Drought Action Plan, which included more significant cuts.

However, as it turned out, this plannot enough. The water level in Lake Mead continues to fall. The Bureau of Reclamation in 2022 for the first time announced a shortage of water in the river. Arizona suffered the most from this. As animal carcasses and wrecks began to appear above the reservoir, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camilla Tuton announced that the states along the river needed to find a way to further reduce water use.

If the flow is not reduced and the water level inthe reservoir will not rise, power plants will stop working. This, in turn, will jeopardize the operation of the entire infrastructure. Therefore, the irrigation of fields has now faded into the background.

Drought in the US could last until 2030, when the Colorado River may dry up altogether

What will happen to the Colorado River in the near future?

Water cuts are now likelywill affect California, which until the last moment received water in full, despite all agreements to reduce consumption. The so-called Imperial Valley will certainly remain without water. This is an irrigated area that provides about two-thirds of the US winter crop.

Cities in seven states are also likely to have to adjust to new realities, despite the fact that they account for a small part of the total water consumption. But what will happen to the river itself?

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Only rainy years can save the situation,which will refill the reservoirs. However, as we have already said, the drought could last until 2030. If the volumes of water in the river and reservoirs continue to decline at the same pace for another 8 years, this will become a real disaster for the United States, which will turn into an energy and food crisis.

By the way, scientists have long warned thatthe amount of drinking water on the planet in the near future will be reduced at an accelerated pace. Recently we talked about the fact that the Rhine River began to dry up. With an increase in the average temperature on the planet, the situation will only get worse, of course, it will also affect Russia.