Western U.S. grapples with water issues amid driest year in a century

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The Pallid Bathtub Ring, which marks land drained by the water meltdown of Lake Mead, stands as a clear image of years of drought in the western United States.

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On Monday, US Vice President Kamala Harris sought to remake the dry icon in a propaganda backdrop for the White House, advocating for a “better back” bill with an infrastructure spending package and money for climate mitigation measures. Is.

“When we see what’s happening here, we know it’s about this lake, but it’s about a region and it’s about our nation,” said Ms. Harris in front of Reservoir Lake. Speaking of what is now two-thirds empty, as nearby California marked what was by some measures its driest year in a century.

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But if the bathtub ring has become a political call to arms, it also testifies to the enormity of the problem facing the country’s water-scarce region, whose greatest difficulties lie not in spending much money but in a century. Trying to undo the value of . From misconceptions and legal handcuffs.

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Scholars say water is a natural resource in the Americas whose abundance has been underestimated for over a century – and whose shortage, exacerbated by climate change, will force major adjustments. “A lot of agricultural communities will have to relocate. People have to leave,” said Jay Lund, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis.

“It’s like a mining town where their ore is depleted.”

In Lake Mead, at least part of today’s bathtub ring can be traced back to a decision made in 1922, when Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming decided to allocate water from the basin. Entered the Colorado River Compact. The compact was founded on data showing 16.5 million acre-feet of available water – a figure based on three decades of measurements that proved unusually wet. Over the past 20 years, Colorado has averaged 12.4 million acre-feet a year, at a time when use has averaged 14 million acre-feet. (One acre foot by one foot deep is enough to cover an acre, enough for the annual needs of one or two homes.)

“Infrastructure is not the solution to our problems. “Renegotiating water allocation is going to be the solution to our problems,” said John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s water resources program.

The difficulty of doing so lies in the fundamental importance of water and the complexities of the rules surrounding its use. In some places, senior water rights holders – who have the highest priority for water – can lose their allocation if they do not use the water. As a result, even in dry Arizona, some farmers continue to irrigate low-value forage grass.

Drought levels in western US

till 12 october

exceptionally dry

extremely dry

severe drought

moderate dry

unusually dry

Wash.

Mont.

Ore.

idaho

Why

nev.

Utah

Colo.

california

Arise.

nautical miles away

Murat Yaxelir / , Source:

US Drought Monitor

Drought levels in western US

till 12 october

exceptionally dry

extremely dry

severe drought

moderate dry

unusually dry

Wash.

Mont.

Ore.

idaho

Why

nev.

Utah

Colo.

california

Arise.

nautical miles away

Murat Yaxelir / , Source:

US Drought Monitor

Drought levels in western US

till 12 october

exceptionally dry

extremely dry

severe drought

moderate dry

unusually dry

Wash.

Mont.

Ore.

idaho

Why

nev.

Utah

Colo.

california

Arise.

nautical miles away

Murat YÜKSELIR / , Source: US Drought Monitor

.

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