Amid extreme drought driven by the climate emergency and warnings of a possible “catastrophic collapse” of the dwindling Colorado River, the U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday announced the first-ever tier 2 shortage for the overdrawn vital waterway, triggering water use cuts in two Southwestern states and Mexico for 2023.
Based on projected water levels for 2023, the tier 2 shortage will force drought-ravaged Arizona, Nevada and Mexico to draw less from the Colorado River, upon which 40 million people in seven states and Mexico rely.
Arizona will face the biggest cut — 592,000 acre-feet, or about one-fifth of the state’s annual allocation, while an 8% reduction in Nevada is expected to have little impact in a state that recycles most of its indoor-use water and does not use its full allotment. Mexico’s allotment will be cut by approximately 7%.
The move came after Colorado River Basin states failed to meet a federal deadline at the end of Monday to come up with a plan to achieve a 15% reduction in water use, an amount scientists say is needed to prevent water stored in dangerously depleted reservoirs from dropping even further.