U.S. orders historic Colorado River cuts to drought-stricken Southwest states

Arizona, Nevada and Mexico bear brunt of latest reductions in effort to save Lake Mead, Lake Powell

The federal government has declared an unprecedented new stage to the water shortage afflicting the Colorado River, triggering cutbacks likely to deepen economic damage to the Southwest driven by a long-running drought.

The cuts of less than one million acre-feet are lower than the two million to four million officials of the Bureau of Reclamation had told the seven states that use the river, as well as Mexico, to prepare for in an advisory two months ago. They notably leave out California, the river’s largest user, which would have been affected by bigger cuts.

An acre foot is enough water for a typical family of four for one year.

Bureau officials said they were prepared to impose additional cuts if cooperative efforts to achieve savings to prop up two of the river’s biggest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, don’t work. Officials said Tuesday that both reservoirs reached what is classified as a Tier 2 shortage for the first time.