Painful water use cuts loom for states in the grip of a historic drought in the West, even as drenching but temporary monsoon thunderstorms sweep sections of the region.
Water supplies have always been an issue in the West. Deciding who taps the finite water supply in the region and how much of that water they can use has historically, as you can imagine, been a source of serious discussion and debate among all who live and work there.

The explosive growth of huge population centers in the desert-dominated region and the onset of historic drought conditions has put a strain on water supplies held in Lakes Mead (outside Las Vegas) and Lake Powell, upstream of Lake Mead and straddling the border between Arizona and Utah. Each are giant reservoirs produced by damming the Colorado River. The water situation hasn’t been helped by the fact the Colorado River basin has been through its driest period on record over the past two decades–a development attached to the warming, drying climate there.

Lake Mead sits behind the Hoover Dam. It was built in the early and mid 1930s–and its waters have been in a 22-year downward spiral and have dropped to all-time lows this summer–dwindling to just 27% capacity. Recent monsoon t-storms have delivered flooding downpours to parts of the region, including the Las Vegas Strip. But these rains have only raised Lake Mead’s level 14″–a fraction of the 179 ft. the lake had dropped since 2000.

The result is, difficult decisions loom on water allocations from Lake Mead—allocations which impact 40-million residents across 7 Southwest states, sections of northern Mexico and a $15 billion a year agriculture industry.

The major cuts in water allocations necessitated by the drought are the subject of two Tuesday (8/16) articles.

One from the Associated Press and the other from Reuters.

And drought issues extend beyond this country. Historic drought grips much of western Europe. Reuters reports on the issues this has raised as river levels plunge in Germany, where waterways are critical for the transport of goods and critical energy supplies.