Las Vegas Sun

November 21, 2019

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Colorado River named most endangered river in nation

CARSON CITY — The lower Colorado River, which supplies water to Las Vegas, Arizona and California, has been named the most endangered river in the nation by a conservation organization.

And plans to develop a conservation program are threatened by the loss of federal funds in President Donald Trump's proposed budget.

American Rivers, a national conservation organization, released its annual list today of 10 most endangered rivers, with the Lower Colorado River at the top of the list.

The demands for the river are outstripping the supply. Even with the heavy snow in Colorado, demand for water still exceeds the supply.

The Bureau of Reclamation predicts a better than 50 percent chance of a shortage in 2018.

“Cities and farms would almost certainly face new water restrictions,” said American Rivers.

To date, state and local governments have overcome the shortages by drawing on reserves.

Matt Rice of American Rivers said the federal government committed $40 billion for agencies to work with the state and local governments on the drought contingency plan.

Arizona is one of the leaders in putting together this contingency plan. If the money is not allocated, the organization said “a water shortage will likely trigger curtailments that will destabilize the water supply in the Lower Colorado River Basin.”

The organization said the river provides drinking water to 30 million people in fast growing areas such as Las Vegas. And water is supplied to more than 5 million acres of farms.

The Trump budget would take money away from the Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior.

Rice said these federal agencies are quarterbacking development of the drought contingency plan.

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