There was some good news across much of the drought-plagued southwestern United States in recent months as heavier-than-usual precipitation covered the region. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to refill the depleted reservoirs.
As a result, officials are set to impose some harsh measures that will impact residents — and farmers in particular — across much of the country.
Two competing proposals
The Bureau of Reclamation knows something has to be done, but it’s not yet sure which of two alternatives would be best for everyone involved. On one hand, Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton has proposed excluding farmers in areas that have been using the reservoirs the longest from the most severe restrictions. An alternate option would subject the entire region to severe cutbacks, thus impacting far more of the nation’s agricultural industry.
In either case, this appears to be the most widespread and deepest cutback on record and the federal government is standing ready to intervene as needed to impose the restrictions.
States are at an impasse
The reason that these two options are on the table in the first place is due in large part to an inability of states in the region to come to an agreement. The bureau has already determined that the lower basin states must conserve a staggering 2 million acre-feet of water next year, which led to some bickering about how much each impacted state would be required to cut.
If the first option, based on seniority, goes into effect, California would be allowed to essentially maintain its current level of water use while Arizona would be on the hook to implement the majority of the prescribed cuts.
Even after a period of rain and snowfall, the need for such cuts remains. As Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau explained: “One good year will not save us.”