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Kelly Calls For Senate Hearing On Colorado River Shortage Declaration

AP Photo/John Locher, File

Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is calling for a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on this week’s first-ever Colorado River shortage declaration. It comes as region-wide drought has heightened stress on western water resources. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

Kelly wants the Senate to examine how the decision could impact Arizona cities, tribal communities and farmers. As a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he says he’s concerned about the region’s dwindling reservoirs.

More than 40 million people and millions of acres of farmland depend on water from the Colorado River. Its overall storage system, which includes Lake Powell and Lake Mead, is currently at 40% capacity, down from 49% this time last year. Spring runoff into Lake Powell alone was about a quarter of what the reservoir typically receives.

Senator Kelly says the $1.2 trillion infrastructure agreement recently passed by the Senate provides funds for the Lower Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan and other efforts to increase resilience.

Farmers in Pinal County will take the brunt of the water cuts next year. Hydrologists and other experts say broader shortages are possible in the future as climate change intensifies a prolonged megadrought in the West.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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