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Feds Give Western Water Managers Deadline On Drought Plan

Water managers in the West met in Las Vegas last week for an annual conference, and on their agenda was figuring out how to deal with Lake Mead dropping to historically low levels. 

Looming over this year's gathering of the Colorado River Water Users Association was a prediction from the Bureau of Reclamation, which has said there is a 57 percent chance that Lake Mead could hit a shortage as early as next year. 

"Water supplies within the entire (Colorado River) basin are becoming increasingly scarce," Luke Runyon, a reporter from NPR member station KUNC in northern Colorado, told State of Nevada. "Wherever there is scarcity there is most likely going to be conflict."

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has given a Jan. 31 deadline for states along the Colorado River to come to an agreement on coping with the drought before they step in.

The Colorado River stakeholders who met last week discussed a drought contingency plan "to close that gap between the supply and the demand," Runyon said. The plan would likely call for both improved water conservation and management.

Should the federal goverment declare a water shortage in Lake Mead, Nevada and Arizona would experience the first cutbacks. Those reductions would hit Arizona the hardest — and the state is the one holdout on a drought contingency plan.

Arizona "has the most to lose" in any agreement to reduce water usage, Runyon, said. "They're going to take the deepest cutbacks from water delivery from the Colorado River.





Luke Runyon, reporter, KUNC 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.