The federal government on Tuesday ordered severe water cuts in Arizona and Nevada amid a Colorado River shortage, CNN reports.
The Interior Department announced that the Colorado River will operate in a Tier 2 shortage condition for the first time starting in January after projections showed the water level in Lake Mead, one of the country’s largest reservoirs, falling below 1,050 feet above sea level.
Arizona will face the steepest cut, requiring it to reduce the amount of river water it receives by 21%.
"Every sector in every state has a responsibility to ensure that water is used with maximum efficiency. In order to avoid a catastrophic collapse of the Colorado River System and a future of uncertainty and conflict, water use in the Basin must be reduced," Interior's assistant secretary for water and science Tanya Trujillo said in a statement.
The Interior Department just a year ago announced the first Tier 1 shortage on the Colorado River but projections have worsened amid a long drought in the Southwest.
Lake Mead has been at just 27% of its capacity much of the summer.
The Colorado River’s water is used by Arizona, Nevada, California, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and Mexico. The river has increasingly been drained due to booming expansion and lax water limits.
Will it be enough?:
Despite the drastic cuts, it’s unclear whether the Colorado River can be saved.
"We thought we were good, but the last few years have been so dry that we realized those tier reductions weren't enough and aren't enough," Bill Hasencamp, the Colorado River resources manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, told CNN. "So the two things we're focused on is how do we get through the next three years without the system crashing, and then how do we develop a long term plan to sustain the Colorado River."
"Frankly, I'm frustrated because the overwhelming sense I've gotten from the negotiations is there aren't enough people taking this seriously enough and understanding this is about adapting to less water in this river," John Entsminger, the general manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told CNN.