Lots of people will say 3m acre-feet isn’t enough, but this is about stopping the system from immediately crashing. Hopefully this will get us through the next few years and we can focus on what happens after 2026, because we were all worried how we would get there. Now there’s the hard work of getting a longer-term solution because this is by no means the end of the story.”
Harnessing the might of the Colorado river, which rises in the Rocky Mountains and flows all the way to Mexico, has enabled cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas to flourish, as well as allowing millions of acres of agricultural land to be cultivated in otherwise harsh desert environments. More than 40 million people rely on the water the 1,450-mile (2,300km) river provides.
But the enormous extraction of water, mainly for farming, coupled with the climate crisis, which has increased the evaporation of water and reduced the snowpack that feeds the river, has caused a crisis point for the river and the US west. The region is experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 years, with this year’s bumper rain and snowfall not expected to fully release the grip of a two-decade “megadrought”.
Without a deal, it was feared that the water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell would fall so much that the hydroelectric turbines they powered would fail, risking the power supply to millions of people.