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Conditions on the drying Colorado River are worsening faster than expected. States can’t agree on how to divide water cuts. Native American officials say they’re still largely shut out from the bargaining table and murmurs of a dystopian “water war” scenario now punctuate the conversations.

The crisis is over a century in the making and water experts have been ringing alarm bells for decades. Now government officials have weeks or months, not years, to find ways to save massive amounts of water.

At risk are the country’s two largest reservoirs — lakes Powell and Mead — both of which are losing water. Levels could drop so low this year that Glen Canyon and Hoover dams would no longer be able to generate electricity for millions of people. By the end of next year, Powell’s water level could fall so low that its dam will only be able to send smaller quantities of water downstream to Arizona, California and Nevada.

Federal officials need the seven states in the Colorado River Basin to save at least 2 million acre-feet but water managers now acknowledge that number might need to be three times higher, enough to bury the entire state of Rhode Island under more than seven feet of water.

And that’s just so the basin can survive long enough to plan for the years ahead. Nobody wants to be the one responsible for turning down — or off — taps to farmers, ranchers, companies or even major cities.

Local, state and federal officials often mention using more efficient irrigation methods on cropland and they discuss accounting for water lost to evaporation or as it’s transported across thousands of miles of desert terrain. But neither of those two — necessary — steps will be enough.

The Denver Post spoke to experts across the region about ideas, both substantive and farfetched, that could save enough water to keep the Colorado River Basin afloat. Nobody could say precisely how much water a given strategy might provide but each of them acknowledged that officials throughout the American West must think creatively and be prepared to use any and all available resources.

Here are several of those ideas:

— Full story via Conrad Swanson, The Denver Post 

Can the West save the Colorado River before it’s too late? Here are 8 possible solutions

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See more great photos like this on The Denver Post’s Instagram account.

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