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water use

Groundwater pumping is causing rivers and small streams throughout the country to decline, according to a new study from researchers at the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Arizona.

Each winter, anxious water managers, farmers and city leaders in the American Southwest turn their eyes toward the snowy peaks of the southern Rocky Mountains.

The piling snow is a massive frozen reservoir, and its depth and weight can foreshadow the year ahead. Millions of dollars are spent divining what a heavy or light snowpack means for the region's reservoirs, for its booming cities, for its arid farmland.

Photo of Virgin River in St. George, Utah
Judy Fahys / KUER

The seven states in the Colorado River Basin face a deadline this week to submit water shortage plans to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Utah’s Division of Water Resources has already teamed up with other Upper Basin States — Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming — on contingency plans, but the federal government wants to be sure that the entire basin has a workable solution in the event of a severe water shortage declaration that could come as soon as next year.

Westerners in many states are using less water.  However that’s not the case in the Mountain West. In Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho, home usage went up; in Montana it stayed the same. Experts say these figures are based less on population growth and more on state water policies.