Severe water cuts were announced on Tuesday to western states in the grip of a severe “megadrought” that has dropped levels in the country’s largest two reservoirs to record lows.
The US Department of the Interior has declared the first-ever tier 2 shortage for the Colorado River, meaning Arizona, Nevada and Mexico must further reduce their water usage from 1 January next year.
Arizona will face the largest cut: 592,000 acre feet, or 21% of the state’s current river draw, officials said. Restrictions to other states, including California, may follow.
The crisis, which has dropped levels in Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US, to an 80-year low of barely one-quarter its 28.9m acre-feet capacity, is threatening the survival of the crucial river basin.
It has also led to potential disruption of water delivery and hydropower production, forcing the federal government to take such drastic action.