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DENVER (KDVR/AP) — Gov. Jared Polis and other Western state governors are requesting the Biden administration issue a federal disaster declaration for the drought issue plaguing the Western states.

U.S. officials are expected to declare the first-ever water shortage from a river that serves 40 million people in the West on Monday. Some farmers will get less water from the Colorado River next year, forcing them to make adjustments.

A prolonged drought made worse by climate change has led to record low water levels at Lake Mead, one of the river’s reservoirs. The situation highlights the challenges for a region that’s also growing in population. The Colorado River provides drinking water, irrigation for farms and hydropower to seven Western states and parts of Mexico.

A before and after image compare of Lake Mead shows how low the levels are:

Lake Mead on the Nevada-Arizona border, 1985 (left) vs. 2021 (right) (Credit: Google Earth)

“At this point there is little to no animal feed across much of the west, requiring farmers to import feed from out of state. Without substantial assistance, rural economies in our states that rely heavily on agriculture and natural resources will take years to recover from the effects of this devastating drought,” Polis’ letter to President Biden said. 

“We are eager to have additional conversations with you and your Administration about longer term strategies to make the west more resilient to drought, wildfires, and climate change. However, at this time we are requesting that you immediately declare a FEMA drought disaster in our states, allowing our agriculture communities to access funding beyond what is available through existing emergency programs,” the letter read. 

Lake Powell in Arizona and Utah, 1984 (left) vs. 2021 (right) (Credit: Google Earth)

Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Idaho will be able to access federal resources beyond what is currently available through existing emergency programs if the declaration is issued.