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Drop In Colorado River Levels Could Slash Water Supply To SoCal

SAN DIEGO ( — A dramatic drop in the Colorado River's water level could fuel a supply crisis in Southern California and throughout the Western United States, federal officials said Tuesday.

The river provides drinking water, power and recreation for some 40 million people in California, as well as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming, according to the Associated Press.

Anne Castle, Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science, met with representatives of water agencies from each of those states in San Diego to hammer out an agreement to mount an interstate conservation effort ahead of a projected shortage in the Colorado River basin in 2016.

Castle told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that the river's largest reservoirs — Lake Mead near Las Vegas and Lake Powell near Page, Ariz. — are projected to drop to 45 percent capacity by September.

Anne Castle, Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science

"This is something that we can't wait around and see what happens; we've got to take action now," Castle said. "We're facing a real possibility of shortages in the Colorado River basin."

A new report shows 2013 is projected to be the fourth-driest year on record, while 2012 was the fifth-driest year in a century of record-keeping, Castle said.

U.S. and Mexican officials signed a pact in November for new rules on sharing Colorado River water, including a deal that lets Mexico store water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which are already showing signs of diminishing resources.

"You can see it if you look at Lake Mead, where the water levels are down considerably from a full pool, you can see that white bathtub ring around the rim of the lake," Castle said.

Castle also said the report shows that if trends continue, the West could lose enough water over the next 45 years to supply five million new homes.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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