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Mega-drought in the American West: unprecedented water cut-offs in the Colorado basin

In its newsletter last June, IFGR mentioned the possibility that the western States of America would resort to cutting off water supplies as early as the end of 2022 due to a mega-drought hitting the Colorado River. Since then, the situation has worsened rapidly: Lake Powell, the USA’s second largest reservoir, has reached its lowest ever level, filled to only 32% of its capacity. According to forecasts, Lake Mead, a gigantic reservoir adjacent to the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas, will reach its lowest level since it was built in the 1930s.

On 16 August, the federal government took the unprecedented decision to impose restrictions on water as from January 2022 in the States situated downstream of Lake Mead. Arizona will receive about 18% less water than in a normal year, Nevada 7% less and Mexico, where the Colorado ends its course, 5% less. The impact of this decision is considerable for millions of users, especially farmers, who depend on the river for their water supply. There is a risk of new conflicts emerging over water resources between cities and farming areas.

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