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First-ever federal water shortage declaration for the Colorado River

Posted at 1:19 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 20:29:20-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It’s the moment that we’ve been holding our breath for. With Lake Mead and Lake Powell down to historic water levels, U.S. officials have declared the first-ever federal water shortage declaration.

RELATED: Lake Mead levels to drop to lowest capacity since 1930s

40 million people rely on the Colorado River. That's 40 million reasons for federal water cuts. Southern Nevada gets 90% of its water from the Colorado River. More than half that water is used outside.

The big push is smart water landscaping. That is, getting rid of unnecessary grass.

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Bronson Mack with the Southern Nevada Water Authority explained: "This is grass that nobody walks on, primarily recreate, it’s really grass that’s just decorative. And what’s really interesting about that, is that there is approximately 4,000 acres of nonfunctional grass within the commercial sector here in Southern Nevada."

That grass uses up about 10% of our water supply.

The difference between water use and water consumption is when we use water it can be recycled and not wasted. Consumption is using that water once and never being able to get it back.

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The 7 states that share the Colorado River agreed on water shortage criteria in 2007. The lower basin (Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico) agreed on how they would share water use.

"For Nevada‘s share, we will have our water supply reduced by 21,000-acre feet. We’re permitted to use 300,000-acre feet every year. So that will get reduced down to 279,000-acre feet," said Mack.

RELATED: Lower water levels at Lake Mead mean less electricity from Hoover Dam

"Our community has taken significant steps to save water. In fact, we’ve reduced our consumption of Colorado River water by 23%. Yet our community has grown by nearly 800,000 people during that same time. So today we’re supplying more people with less water than we did just two decades ago," says Mack.

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The water shortage declaration will lead to a 7 billion gallon water supply cut for Southern Nevada. Experts say that if the community takes simple steps and follow water restrictions, we will save more water than is actually being cut.