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Despite High Snowpack, Low Reservoir Levels Will Trigger Drought Plans

Despite high snowpack this past winter, the Colorado River’s low reservoirs will trigger some provisions of a new drought plan.

The drought contingency plan was put in place this spring, and it spells out a series of cutbacks in water deliveries to states along the river’s lowest reaches -- Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. The river’s biggest reservoir -- Lake Mead -- is still struggling to recover from a longterm drought, and its low level will cause the plan to be used for the first time in 2020.

 “One good year in the Colorado River basin is typically not enough to fill up reservoirs when the reservoirs are half empty,” said Jennifer Pitt, the Colorado River program director for the National Audubon Society.

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Still, many users are already conserving the amount of water spelled out in the plan’s series of reductions. That makes the moment largely symbolic -- where Southwest water users for the first time have agreed to use less from the river that supplies 40 million people in the Western U.S.