LAS VEGAS (AP) — A top federal water administrator said Friday that several myths stand in the way of broad agreements needed to deal with increasing demand for water in the drought-stricken and over-allocated Colorado River basin.
Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anne Castle told the "Business of Water" conference in Las Vegas that there's no one-step way to avoid the possibility of cuts in water deliveries in the next few years to states including Arizona and Nevada.
With the crucial Lake Mead reservoir at 38 percent capacity and the Southwest in the grip of the driest 15-year period in more than a century, Castle said it will take multiple, incremental agreements to balance the water rights of cities, farmers, Indian tribes and states.
"Compromise is the only way we're going to get ourselves out of this drought," she said. "This is difficult state politics."
Businesses can use their relationships and economic clout to require responsible water behavior, she added.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., underscored the severity of the problem in a separate address to the conference at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas.
Reid quoted Benjamin Franklin speaking about knowing the worth of water when the well runs dry.
"We understand the well may not be dry, but it's going dry," Reid said. "The water situation in these states is perilous. Lake Mead is at its lowest level ever. We're all fighting to keep that well from going dry."
Reid urged the nearly 200 business representatives and municipal water managers to support lawmakers who are willing to recognize climate changes.
Castle is a top government water administrator in the agency that oversees the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which controls dams and canals serving the region that's home to 40 million people and has 4 million acres of farmland.
The water basin serves Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona and New Mexico. Mexico and 29 Indian tribes along the Colorado River also have senior rights to river water.
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