While tens of millions depend on the Colorado River system, it has been badly strained by a severe and ongoing drought.
According to Fox News, the Biden administration has responded with plans to curtail water use in seven western states. However, the recommended cuts are bound to leave some residents feeling abandoned.
Fox News noted that the river system is divided into the Upper and Lower Basin. While the former stretches across Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, the latter is concentrated in Arizona, California, and Nevada.
Water for the Lower Basin flows out of Lake Powell, which is located on the Utah-Arizona border, and Lake Mead, which straddles Arizona and Nevada.
Lake Powell and Lake Mead are both man-made reservoirs that have fallen to dangerously low levels in recent years, a situation that threatens both water supplies as well as hydroelectric power generation.
Under one proposal put out on Tuesday by the Department of the Interior, states making up the Lower Basin would see their water supply reduced based on the seniority of entities supplied by Lake Powell and Lake Mead.
This would benefit California farmers at the expense of users in Phoenix, Arizona. The second option does not take seniority into account, which means its burden would fall more heavily on California's agricultural industry.
Fox News pointed out that a substantial portion of the fruits and vegetables Americans consume are irrigated with Colorado River water.
"Failure is not an option," Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement on Tuesday.
He stressed that "the Biden-Harris administration is bringing every tool and every resource to bear through the President’s Investing in America agenda to protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System now and into the future."
Meanwhile, Tom Buschatzke heads the Arizona Department of Water Resources, and he argued that any course of action is certain to be controversial.
Buschatzke acknowledged that while the federal plan "presents multiple paths forward," each one has the potential for "dire consequences."
"In some cases, it may spur opposition or even litigation," CNN quoted him as saying at a press conference on Tuesday.
"Instead, let us accelerate our discussions in the basin for a collaborative, consensus-based outcome," the official went on to insist.