The US has government declared a water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time ever, with the resources of over 40 million people across seven US states and Mexico threatened.
Monday’s announcement came with compulsory consumption cuts for states across the southwest, as the climate crisis caused Lake Mead to drain to levels lower than ever before.
Both Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the largest US reservoirs, are now just over 30 per cent full – something which senior water and climate scientist Brad Udall told CNN has been worrying the climate community for more than a decade.
‘Undesirable water outcomes’
Udall called for action on “undesirable water outcomes” and an urgent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – as he expects worse climate effects on water supplies.
Lake Mead provides water to around 25 million people across Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. Current scarcities mean Arizona will face an 18 per cent reduction in water supplies, while Nevada’s reduction was announced at 7 per cent
Additional cuts are expected if Lake Mead continues to struggle with drought, but the recently-announced cuts are believed to impact drinking water and agriculture.
“Everyone else I’ve talked to says in 85 years, it has not been this bad,” T.J. Atkin, a cattle farmer in Utah and Arizona, told CNN in June.
According to the UN report last week, which warned there is a “code red for humanity” because of the climate crisis, human activity plays a key role in droughts’ frequency and intensity.
Droughts that were happening across the world ever decade now occur 70 per cent more frequently, the IPCC found.
And humans’ impact on the planet is already “locked in” for decades – but the climate crisis could still get much worse, the same report warned.
The report warned that without rapid and large-scale action to cut down emissions, global temperatures are set to increase – and pass the critical 1.5-degree Celsius threshold in the next two decades.
‘Changes becoming irreversible’
“The IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a ‘code red’ for humanity,” United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said last week.
He added: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.
“Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible .
“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”
There have also been floods across European countries which caused people to die in Germany, Belgium, Romania, Austria and Italy.
Guterres stressed there is “no time for delay and no room for excuses” and that there is an urgent need for action to prevent a “climate catastrophe”.
Last year, a report by the National Audit Office found southern England could be in drought in 20 years without water use cuts.