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MON: New Mexico Governor Sends State Police To Albuquerque, + More

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New Mexico Governor Sends State Police To Albuquerque - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham acknowledged Monday that New Mexicans are "beyond sick and tired of crime" and dispatched nearly three dozen state police officers to Albuquerque as the city wrestles with a record-breaking spree of homicides.

The governor's move comes after another rash of deadly shootingsin recent days, including one that left a 13-year-old middle school student dead after he was shot by a classmate during the lunch hour Friday.

Albuquerque has surpassed its annual homicide record already in 2021, having logged more than 80 killings with four months still go in the year. The previous record was set in 2019.

At a news conference in Santa Fe, Lujan Grisham said that state police will coordinate with local police and prosecutors in Albuquerque. The deployment will concentrate on auto theft and drug trafficking as well as aggressive driving and drunken driving along the two major interstate highways that bisect the city. The effort is scheduled to last at least three weeks.

"This is about getting everybody to leverage every single resource we have so that New Mexicans are as safe as they can be," Lujan Grisham said.

Lujan Grisham also called for new legislative proposals to better ensure public safety and improve accountability for crimes involving guns, when the Legislature convenes in January 2022 for a rapid 30-day legislative session. 

"We have to keep doing everything we can so that every New Mexican gets their constitutional right to be safe in their schools and community," Lujan Grisham said.

The issue of crime has been the focus of the upcoming mayoral election in November, as incumbent Democrat Tim Keller tries to defend his record despite the crush of homicide cases.

Many Albuquerque residents have blamed what they call a "revolving door" and lax consequences for repeat offenders. At the same time, city authorities are working to resolve longstanding concerns about police brutality though a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. 

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump sent additional federal officers to Albuquerque as part of an effort to address high crime in certain cities around the U.S. At the time, Keller and top Democrats in the state bristled at Trump's move.

Candidates seeking to unseat Keller in the November election include Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, who last year embraced Trump's approach to shoring up law enforcement in Albuquerque during a visit to the White House.

Lujan Grisham said while the state has prioritized rehabilitation and reform within the criminal justice system and community policing efforts, repeat and violent offenders "have no business on our streets, terrorizing workers and families simply trying to live their lives in peace."

"As a longtime Albuquerque resident myself, I know the feeling of frustration and helplessness," the governor said. "My expectation is these additional officers taking part in a strategic initiative to root out and round up crime and those who habitually and flagrantly perpetrate it will contribute to deterrence and prevention."

Police continue to investigate Friday's shooting at Washington Middle School, including how the 13-year-old suspect was able access his father's handgun. According to a probable-cause statement, the father right before the shooting had discovered that his gun was missing and went to the school, where he arrived to see his son in handcuffs.

Court records and police reports show that in 2018, the father had shot and injured another parent during a fight in the student pick-up lane at another Albuquerque school. He was never arrested and prosecutors declined to file charges at the time, saying both parents had valid claims.

The governor wondered aloud at her news conference whether local law enforcement agencies are adequately enforcing recent state gun safety reforms that expand background checks for gun sales, limit gun access for individuals linked to domestic violence and give them the ability to remove firearms from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

West Nile Virus Detected In Bernalillo County Mosquitoes - Associated Press

Health officials in New Mexico's most populated area are warning residents to take precautions against mosquito bites. 

They announced Monday that mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus have been collected at locations throughout Albuquerque and Bernalillo County as part of a regular monitoring program.

"Mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus will be around until there is a good hard frost in the area, so we urge people to continue to take precautions against mosquito bites throughout the rest of the season," said Dr. Mark DiMenna, deputy director of Albuquerque's Environmental Health Department.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, there have been no human West Nile virus cases in the state so far this year. In 2020, there were eight cases with one death. That was down significantly from the 40 cases and four deaths reported in 2019.

Symptoms of an infection can include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. In rare cases, the virus can cause meningitis or encephalitis. 

State Of Emergency Declared In New Mexico's Doña Ana County – Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order Sunday declaring a state of emergency in New Mexico's Doña Ana County.

The order aims to provide local governments with the tools and funding they need to begin recovering from the heavy rainfall and severe flooding that began last week.

Like similar declarations for Lincoln, Chaves, Valencia and Eddy counties earlier this year, the latest order provides up to $750,000 for the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) to support public recovery efforts organized by city and county officials.

In this instance, the state constitution does not allow state emergency funds to be used for direct financial assistance to private individuals.

The declaration also means that affected localities within the county could also be eligible for state assistance.

State emergency declarations authorize the adjutant general to activate the New Mexico National Guard for necessary support and they direct all cabinet departments to assist with a statewide response.

US Energy Official To Visit New Mexico Amid Renewable Push - Associated Press

The head of the U.S. Energy Department is scheduled to visit New Mexico as the Biden administration looks to promote its renewable energy initiatives.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will be accompanied by Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich for the two-day visit. They are expected to meet with local leaders and organizations about the state's push for more renewable energy and efforts to lower costs as utilities face a mandate over the next two decades for providing emissions-free electricity to customers across the state.

A roundtable discussion Wednesday in Albuquerque will focus on how transmission projects could unlock New Mexico's potential to develop more wind and solar power.

They will then travel to the Farmington area Thursday, where another discussion is planned on creating opportunities for the local workforce, which includes tribal members from the neighboring Navajo Nation. The region is preparing for the closure in the coming years of two major coal-fired power plants and the mines that feed them.

Granholm also will tour businesses that are working on new energy technologies, from mobile hydrogen generators to cooling systems for nuclear reactors. 

Granholm has made similar visits to other states. In July, she stopped in West Virginia to promote the role that the once-booming coal-producing state could play in the administration's plans to move away from fossil fuel generation.

Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, first invited Granholm to New Mexico in March. He has been pushing legislation that would help offset the reduction of fossil fuel revenues and jobs that will come with the energy transition, saying he wants to "ensure that oil and gas workers and their communities aren't left behind."

Albuquerque Police Shoot, Kill Armed Car Thief Suspect - Associated Press

Albuquerque police say a suspect driving in a stolen car was shot and killed after he pulled a gun on officers.

The fatal shooting occurred Sunday shortly after 5 p.m. when officers were following a stolen car.

Police arrived at a Walmart and watched a man and woman get out of the car. Authorities say the officers approached the couple and the man fled.

Investigators say the man then turned and held up a gun. Officers then shot him.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The woman was not injured and taken into custody.

The names of the slain suspect and the woman have not been released. The officers, who were not identified, will be on standard paid administrative leave.

Police have not said whether officers' body cameras recorded the shooting. A gun was recovered from the scene

Police: School Shooting Victim Went To Aid Boy Being Bullied - Susan Montoya Bryan and Paul Davenport, Associated Press

It's only a few days into the new school year, but New Mexico's largest district is reeling from a shooting that left one student dead and another in custody after, according to police, the victim tried to protect another boy who was being bullied.

The gunfire at Washington Middle School during the lunch hour Friday marked the second shooting in Albuquerque in less than 24 hours. With the city on pace to shatter its homicide record this year, top state officials said they were heartbroken by what they described as a scourge.

"These tragedies should never occur. That they do tells us there is more work to be done," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.

The boy who was killed, identified by police on Saturday as 13-year-old Bennie Hargrove, was a hero, Police Chief Harold Medina said Friday night in a brief statement.

"He stood up for a friend and tried to deescalate a violent confrontation between classmates," Medina said. He said the incident was "a tragedy that has shaken our community."

A probable-cause statement released Saturday said the 13 year-old boy was charged with one count each of open murder and unlawfully carrying a deadly weapon on school premises. The Associated Press does not generally identify juvenile crime suspects.

A witness, a third 13-year-old boy, told detectives after the shooting that the shooting occurred after Hargrove approached the suspect to tell him to stop bullying and punching a smaller boy.

The witness said the suspect held a gun behind his leg so Hargrove couldn't see it when he approached and the suspect then chambered a round and shot at Hargrove multiple times, according to the probable-cause statement.

A police officer assigned to the school heard the shooting, ran over to the boys and handcuffed the suspect to a fence before radioing for help and tending to the injured boy until medical personnel arrived, the statement said.

Police later learned that the suspect's father right before the shooting had discovered that his gun was missing and went to the school, where he arrived to see his son in handcuffs, the statement said.

The 13-year-old witness also told police that the suspect had been a nice boy but recently picked on other boys and acted as if he was a gang member, the statement said.

It wasn't immediately known whether the suspect has a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

Friday marked the third day of classes for Albuquerque's public school district. While students won't return until Tuesday, Superintendent Scott Elder said the staff will be making preparations to ensure students have access to counseling and any other support services they need.

"Of course it's extremely difficult," he said of something like this happening so early in the school year. "There's a lot of pressure in the community. People are nervous. It was a terrible incident that happened between two people. It should have never happened. ... This shouldn't happen in the community. It certainly shouldn't happen at a school."

Police said more officers will be present when students return, hoping to provide a sense of security and in case students have any more information about the shooting they want to share.

Gunfire also rang out Thursday night at a sports bar and restaurant near a busy Albuquerque shopping district. Police said one person was killed and three were injured after someone pulled out a gun during a fight.

No arrests have been made in that case. Investigators were reviewing surveillance video and interviewing witnesses.

Authorities identified the man who was killed as Lawrence Anzures, a 30-year old boxer from Albuquerque.

A makeshift memorial of flowers and candles grew Friday outside the restaurant, providing more evidence of the frustration that families having been feeling.

The shootings come as Mayor Tim Keller convened his latest session with other officials to talk about curbing violence and crime in the city. His administration is hoping to come up with recommendations for improving the criminal justice system and addressing the problem of repeat offenders. The mayor's office noted that for most Albuquerque homicides this year, more than 45% of charged offenders and nearly 60% of suspects have criminal records.

"For low-level offenders, we need to bolster diversion programs and real access to resources to change their lives," Keller said in a statement. "But for violent offenders, we have to stop the revolving door."

Former Navajo Nation President Kelsey Begaye Dies At Age 70 – Associated Press

Navajo Nation officials have called for all flags on the vast reservation be flown at half-staff to honor former tribal President Kelsey Begaye.

They said Begaye, who served as Navajo Nation president from 1999 to 2003, died of natural causes Friday in Flagstaff. He was 70.

Current Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that Begaye "was a very humble and loving person who overcame adversities at a young age and turned to his faith to become a loving family man, a Vietnam veteran and a great leader for his people."

Begaye was born in Kaibeto, Arizona and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1969. He served four years as a radio operator while in Vietnam.

Tribal officials said Begaye later became a substance abuse counselor in the mid-1970s though 1990s, helping many young people overcome drug and alcohol abuse.

After serving two terms as the speaker of the tribal council, Begaye was elected the fifth president of the Navajo Nation in November 1998.

Begaye is survived by his wife, Marie, and five children. Their oldest son died in 2014.

Funeral services for Begaye were still pending Sunday.

Navajo Nation Reports 37 New COVID-19 Cases And 1 More Death – Associated Press

The Navajo Nation on Sunday reported 37 more COVID-19 cases and one additional death as the tribe gets ready to return to "Orange Status" on Monday due to the recent rise of coronavirus cases.

The latest numbers pushed the tribe's totals to 31,920 cases and 1,390 known deaths since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

The Navajo Nation had reported 67 cases and one death on Friday and 62 cases plus two deaths Saturday.

On Aug. 9, the Navajo Department of Health issued a health advisory notice for 19 communities due to uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.

The Navajo Department of Health on Thursday issued three new public health emergency orders for businesses and schools while revising in-person gathering limits for certain events.

The tribe's mask mandate remains in effect, but there is no daily curfew or lockdown on the reservation that is the country's largest at 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) and covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The 50% maximum occupancy level remains in place for restaurants (including indoor dining, drive-thru, curbside and outdoor dining) plus tribal casinos, hotels, campgrounds and RV parks.

US Forest Service Accused Of Failing To Protect Meadow Mouse – Associated Press

Environmentalists have sued again over an endangered mouse found only in parts of New Mexico and Arizona.

In the latest legal filing, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society allege that the U.S. Forest Service has failed to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse and its habitat in the Sacramento Mountains from cattle grazing.

The tiny rodent was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014. The agency then designated nearly 22 square miles along about 170 miles of streams, ditches and canals as critical habitat in parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.

Robin Silver with the Center for Biological Diversity told the Carlsbad Current-Argus that grazing is to blame for stream-side meadows being trampled and the mouse disappearing.

"It's absurd that the Forest Service spends millions in taxpayer money failing to protect the area and stop this slow-motion extinction instead of just removing the cows," he said.

The group last year had called for an independent investigation into Forest Service practices in southern New Mexico, saying hundreds of grazing violations on the Lincoln National Forest have pushed the mouse closer to extinction.

Three decades ago, the mice were found at 17 locations in the Sacramento Mountains on the Lincoln National Forest. Now, it's just one. A report made public last year noted that the downward trajectory of the population continued in 2020.

The mice live near streams and depend on tall grass to hide from predators. They hibernate for about nine months, emerging in the late spring to gorge themselves before mating, giving birth and going back into hibernation. They normally live about three years.

According to the lawsuit, there were dozens of cases a year where the Forest Service reported cattle grazing in protected mouse habitat. It cited as many as 40 violations over a two-month period.

Between 2016 and 2019, the Forest Service spent more than $8.4 million on fencing and other projects in the Sacramento Mountains, including along the Agua Chiquita creek, to protect mouse habitat.

The Lincoln National Forest said in a statement that the agency worked to ensure the mouse's safety by installing permanent pipe and cable fencing near its habitat.

Each mile of fence costs between $137,000 and $227,000, records show.

More projects to protect the mouse and riparian habitat are planned, forest officials said.

Environmentalists are calling on the agency to suspend grazing permits where the violations occur and for the federal government to study the impacts of the activities for future decision making.

Little Justice For Child Sex Abuse Victims In Indian Country - By Brendon Derr, Rylee Kirk, Anne Mickey, Allison Vaughn, Mckenna Leavens And Leilani Fitzpatrick Howard Center For Investigative Journalism

The convicted child rapist emerged from the tree line without warning, walked quickly past the elders who feared him and entered the Navajo home, where his 15-year-old daughter was feeding her pet rabbits.

A short while later, the 6-foot-3-inch man known for being violent emerged with the girl, promising to return in half an hour. But that was a lie. Ozzy Watchman Sr. was kidnapping his daughter for the second time in six months.

Family members pleaded with tribal authorities to issue an Amber Alert, but it never came.

Nearly two weeks passed before Watchman and his daughter were found on June 30 — not by Navajo police or the FBI, which has the investigative lead in such cases, but by a maintenance worker who encountered the two as they scavenged for food.

Child sexual abuse is among the worst scourges on Indigenous communities in North America, yet little hard data exists on the extent of the problem. Some researchers estimate it could be as high as one in every two children.

Dr. Renée Ornelas, a veteran child abuse pediatric specialist working in the Navajo Nation — the largest and most populous tribe in the United States — said practically every family she sees has a history of child sexual abuse.

"They're just little victims everywhere," she said.

The federal government has been responsible for investigating and prosecuting "major crimes" in Indian Country since 1885. Child sexual abuse was added a century later. But not until the last decade has the Justice Department been required to publicly disclose what happens to those investigations — disclosures that suggest many child sexual abuse cases are falling through the cracks.

A Howard Center for Investigative Journalism analysis of Justice Department data shows that the FBI has "closed administratively" more than 1,900 criminal investigations of child sexual abuse in Indian Country since 2011. Such cases are not referred to federal prosecutors because, the FBI says, they fail to meet evidentiary or statutory requirements. But child sex abuse investigations accounted for about 30% of all major crimes on reservations closed by the FBI each year — more than any other type of crime, including murders and assaults, the analysis showed.

Justice Department case management data, analyzed by the Howard Center, reveals that U.S. attorneys pursued charges less than half the time in child sexual abuse cases from Indian Country — about one-third less often than they filed charges in other crimes. Only a small percentage of child sexual abuse defendants from Indian Country went to trial. Most cases, such as Watchman's previous child sex abuse, ended in plea bargains, which typically involve lesser sentences.

"There are a lot more child sexual abuse cases than are being reported," said child psychologist Dolores Subia BigFoot, a Caddo Nation member who directs the Native American Programs at the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect at the University of Oklahoma. "There's a lot of child sexual abuse cases that are not being investigated, and there's a lot of child sexual abuse cases that are not being prosecuted."


Combating child sexual abuse is difficult anywhere. The crime is often committed by a relative or family friend, increasing pressure on the victim to stay silent. Physical evidence is rare, and conviction can hinge on the testimony of someone barely old enough to describe what happened.

But in Indian Country the problem is complicated by what one former U.S. attorney calls "a jurisdictional thicket" of tribal and federal authority spread across wide swaths of territory, making communication and coordination difficult.

Tribal courts are limited by U.S. law in the kinds of cases they may try. The federal government must step in when the crime is considered major, such as child sexual abuse, or when it occurs on a reservation and the suspect is non-Native. On reservations in a handful of states, including Alaska and California, that authority has largely been handed over to the state.

This means the first authorities on the scene must quickly determine the type and location of the crime and the tribal membership of both the victim and suspect. If one of those things is in question, investigations can grind to a halt. Crime scenes can go cold, cases get closed without consequence, and cycles of violence continue.

"I suspect that's why there's so many adults that have these histories of child sexual abuse," said Ornelas, who runs a family advocacy center at Tséhootsooí Medical Center in Fort Defiance, Arizona, located within the Navajo Nation. "It's been a problem for a long time. And there's a lot of offenders out there who get to re-offend and move on to other children in the family."

Justice Department guidelines require that U.S. attorneys and their teams of prosecutors choose cases that are most likely "to obtain and sustain a conviction." But, otherwise, they have wide latitude in deciding what to accept and decline. Federal prosecutors focus mostly on major fraud and counterterrorism and don't typically prosecute violent crimes, the kind of cases handled regularly by local and state prosecutors.

"The bottom line is that they just focus on the cases that are, you know, relatively easier to do," said Troy Eid, former U.S. attorney in Colorado and current president of the Navajo Nation Bar Association. "I think that's human nature, right, and that's how you stay funded." He also noted Indian Country doesn't have much of a political constituency, compared to the rest of the U.S. population.

Insufficient evidence is the reason most often cited for not prosecuting child sexual abuse cases from Indian Country. But that can be a subjective call and there's little oversight of the cases that get closed or declined, the Howard Center found.

One former FBI agent, who spoke on condition he not be named, said "there's a lot of cases that have fallen between the cracks" in Indian Country. "I don't think a lot of people know," he said, calling the large number of declined cases a "dark corner in Indian Country."

A spokesman for the Justice Department said prosecutors' declinations were "not a useful measure of outcomes in most cases."

"Child sexual abuse is abhorrent, illegal, and causes long-lasting damage to young lives," Wyn Hornbuckle, deputy director of public affairs, said in a statement. "The Department of Justice takes its work to address violence in Native American communities extremely seriously, especially the abuse and victimization of children. We will continue to prioritize these efforts, including by working with state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners to maximize and coordinate our responses to such matters."

These often-unspoken crimes — some elders believe talking about them invites trouble into the home — are part of an ongoing legacy of sexual trauma that began with colonization and continued in the boarding school era in which thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families in a forced cultural assimilation program. Chronic alcoholism, poverty and a lack of housing — all of which are widespread on many reservations — are a vestige of and a contributor to the cycle of child sexual abuse, experts say.

Tribal court jurisdiction expanded slightly in 2013 when the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized to include non-Native domestic abusers. The law did not address sexual crimes against children. A 2021 draft of the reauthorization bill gives tribal authorities the right to prosecute non-Native offenders if they sexually abuse a child on tribal territory. But it's unclear if that language will survive long-held concerns in Congress about further expanding tribal courts' power to try and sentence non-Native offenders.

"We sometimes forget that the United States has this affirmative trust obligation to provide public safety or health care or other things to tribal governments and Indigenous peoples," said Trent Shores, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and a member of the Choctaw Nation. "That's something that our Founding Fathers agreed to and set out in treaties."


It took three hours for Navajo police to arrive at the Watchman farm after the family reported the kidnapping. Such delays are not uncommon. A recent independent assessment of the Navajo Police Department found that "dangerously low" staffing was leading to slow response times.

The report said that as of October 2020 there were 158 patrol officers to cover 27,000 square miles and 173,000 residents. Other problems noted include no internet or cellphone service in parts of the Navajo Nation, which has few real addresses.

Phillip Francisco, chief of the Navajo Nation Police Department, said the incident involving the girl didn't merit an Amber Alert because "there was no reason to believe she was in imminent danger or serious bodily harm." He said it was an "ongoing issue" and that the daughter "voluntarily left with the father." Nonetheless, the department put a "missing/endangered" notice on its Facebook page a day after the two went missing.

Ozzy Watchman Sr. mentioned wanting to spend Father's Day fishing at Wheatfields Lake, on the Navajo Nation near the Arizona-New Mexico border, said his uncle, Leonard Watchman.

When he disappeared with the girl on the Friday before the holiday, Leonard Watchman said he told police that, but no one seemed to listen. In the end, that's exactly where the two were spotted.

The girl spent three days, including her 16th birthday, in the hospital. Watchman was arrested and later indicted for an earlier assault on the girl's mother. After the December kidnapping, the girl told a relative that her father had sex with her several times, the relative said. Authorities were notified of this, but nothing happened.

"The sex offender was taking the girl and seems like nobody cares," said Alice Watchman.

In the void between the federal government's responsibility for major crimes in Indian Country and Native Americans' limited judicial authority and resources, tribes are taking a variety of approaches to healing and justice.

Amber Kanazbah Crotty, one of only three women on the Navajo Nation's 24-member legislative body, is working to revitalize family advocacy centers, which provide forensic interviewing and physical evidence collection to help with prosecution, as well as counseling to give children a chance to tell their story to foster self-healing.

"At every level we have to be accountable (for) what's happening to our children," Crotty said. "I cannot depend on an investigator or a court system to provide or to make that person whole."

Western States Face First Federal Water Cuts - Suman Naishadham, Associated Press

U.S. officials on Monday are expected to declare the first-ever water shortage from a river that serves 40 million people in the West, triggering cuts to some Arizona farmers next year amid a gripping drought.

Water levels at the largest reservoir on the Colorado River — Lake Mead — have fallen to record lows. Along its perimeter, a white "bathtub ring" of minerals outlines where the high water line once stood, underscoring the acute water challenges for a region facing a growing population and a drought that is being worsened by hotter, drier weather brought on by climate change.

States, cities, farmers and others have diversified their water sources over the years, helping soften the blow of the upcoming cuts. But if current conditions persist — or intensify — additional cuts in coming years will be more deeply felt.

Lake Mead was formed by building Hoover Dam in the 1930s. It is one of several man-made reservoirs that store water from the Colorado River, which supplies drinking water, irrigation for farms and hydropower to Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and parts of Mexico.

But water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the river's two largest reservoirs, have been falling for years and faster than experts predicted. Scorching temperatures and less melting snow in the spring have reduced the amount of water flowing from the Rocky Mountains, where the river originates before it snakes 1,450 miles southwest and into the Gulf of California.

"We're at a moment where we're reckoning with how we continue to flourish with less water, and it's very painful," said Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University.


Water stored in Lake Mead and Lake Powell is divvied up through legal agreements among the seven Colorado River basin states, the federal government, Mexico and others. The agreements determine how much water each gets, when cuts are triggered and the order in which the parties have to sacrifice some of their supply.

Under a 2019 drought contingency plan, Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico agreed to give up shares of their water to maintain water levels at Lake Mead. The voluntary measures weren't enough to prevent the shortage declaration.


Lake Mead supplies water to millions of people in Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico.

Cuts for 2022 are triggered when predicted water levels fall below a certain threshold — 1,075 feet above sea level, or 40% capacity. Earlier this summer, Lake Mead's elevation hit its lowest point since being filled in the 1930s at 1,068 feet.

Further rounds of cuts are triggered when projected levels sink to 1,050, 1,045 and 1,025 feet.

Eventually, some city and industrial water users could be affected.

Lake Powell's levels also are falling, threatening the roughly 5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity generated each year at the Glen Canyon Dam.

Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming get water from tributaries and other reservoirs that feed into Lake Powell. Water from three reservoirs in those states has been drained to maintain water levels at Lake Powell and protect the electric grid powered by the Glen Canyon Dam.


In the U.S., Arizona will be hardest hit and lose 18% of its share from the river, or 512,000 acre-feet of water. That's around 8% of the state's total water use.

An acre-foot is enough water to supply one to two households a year.

Nevada will lose about 7% of its allocation, or 21,000 acre-feet of water. But it will not feel the shortage because of conservation efforts and alternative sources of water.

California is spared from immediate cuts because it has more senior water rights than Arizona and Nevada.

Mexico will see a reduction of roughly 5%, or 80,000 acre-feet.


Farmers in central Arizona, who are among the state's largest producers of livestock, dairy, alfalfa, wheat and barley, will bear the brunt of the cuts. Their allocation comes from water deemed "extra" by the agency that supplies water to much of the region, making them the first to lose it during a shortage.

As a result, the farmers will likely need to fallow land — as many already have in recent years because of persisting drought — and rely even more on groundwater, switch to water-efficient crops and find other ways to use less water.

Water suppliers have planned for the shortage declaration by diversifying and conserving their water supply, such as by storing water in underground basins. Still, water cuts make it harder to plan for the future.

The Central Arizona Project, which supplies water to Arizona's major cities, will no longer bank river water or replenish some groundwater systems next year because of the cuts.

"It's a historic moment where drought and climate change are at our door," said Chuck Cullom of the Central Arizona Project.

Cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson, and Native American tribes are shielded from the first round of cuts.


Water levels at the reservoir have been falling since 1999 due to the dry spell enveloping the West and increased water demand. With weather patterns expected to worsen, experts say the reservoir may never be full again.

Though Lake Mead and Lake Powell could theoretically be refilled, planning for a hotter, drier future with less river water would be more prudent, said Porter of Arizona State University.