Currently — June 16th, 2022

The weather, currently.

A turning point for the Colorado River
New water restrictions announced this week will change what life in the West means for millions of people for decades to come.

The drought in the western US continues to get more severe.

Water levels at Lake Mead dropped to 1045 feet above sea level this week, just 150 feet above the point at which water would no longer flow through Hoover Dam.

If that were to happen, 25 million people downstream (in Arizona, California, and northern Mexico) would lose access to water from the Colorado River.At a meeting with state officials this week from the Colorado River Basin, the federal Bureau of Reclamation issued an ultimatum: either figure out how to conserve at least 2 million acre feet of water in the next 60 days or we’ll do it for you.

To put things in perspective, that’s a huge amount of water: roughly equal to all the water demand of the state of Arizona, California’s entire almond crop, or 10 years worth of the city of Las Vegas’s water use.

These radical cuts have become essential to maintain Lake Mead and Lake Powell at a high enough level to continue operating hydropower electricity production, and to keep the bare minimum water reserves on hand in case the drought continues to worsen. The cuts are twice as big as all the decades of water planning out west have prepared for to date. They’re likely to deliver a death blow to Western agriculture as we know it — and serve as a watershed example for a new era of forced climate adaptation.

Read more of the story on our website!

— Eric Holthaus

What you need to know, currently.

Goats — yes, goats — could prevent wildfires in California, according to National Geographic.

The continuation of the megadrought in the West — which has made the region the driest its been in 1,200 years — along with the upcoming dry winter and looming effects of climate change will surely worsen this year’s fire season. And, dead vegetation has increased the number of California wildfires as well. Megablazes, which are fires that burn more than 100,000 acres, are devastating the state more and more, too.

During past fire seasons, land managers have utilized herbicide and human labor to clear out some of the foliage and non-native plants that compete with the state’s native vegetation. When non-native species die off, they become fuel for wildfires. And sometimes, these clearing methods still left seeds behind.

As a result, more and more people in California are bringing in goats to clear the land and in turn, prevent wildfires. When the goats eat any unwanted or non-native vegetation, the plants’ seeds become nonviable.

So, next time you see a horned herbivore trotting around, munching on some vegetation, thank it for its service. It could be stopping a fire.

—Aarohi Sheth