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Out to Dry: Southwest Water Shortages Offer Lessons for All

The American Southwest is facing historic reductions in something that breweries use in great quantity: water. The situation is politically fraught, but there are ways that breweries can reduce their water use and make a difference.

Kate Bernot Feb 2, 2023 - 10 min read

Out to Dry: Southwest Water Shortages Offer Lessons for All Primary Image

Photo: SignMedia/Shutterstock

In fall of 2022, the low water levels at Lake Mead reservoir, along the border of Arizona and Nevada, yielded some disturbing visuals: exposed concrete supports, stranded houseboats run ashore, and crusty barrels that had long been submerged under the lake’s surface.

The low levels were due to drought-induced reductions, and the images were alarming to the general public. Yet that alarm was felt more acutely by breweries across the Southwest—breweries that rely on water supplied by the Colorado River, which fills Lake Mead.

The states of Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico already had taken historic water cuts over the summer in response to warnings from the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that manages the Colorado River Basin. Arizona especially felt the pinch, agreeing to reduce its draw from the Colorado River by 512,000 acre-feet, or roughly 167 billion gallons—that’s about a third of the water that would be delivered under a normal, non-drought year. (An acre-foot is the volume of a sheet of water one acre in area and one foot in depth.)

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