The severe drought in the US Southwest has driven farmers to take extremes to gain access to water. Now, Katie Valentine at Think Progress looks at how the growing water crisis has affected New Mexico's Elephant Butte reservoir, which "currently holds just 3 percent of the water it held in the 1980s and 1990s":
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Alberquerque has imposed water use limits on its residents, and El Paso, which gets half its water from Elephant Butte, has been urging its residents since May to use less water. In the meantime, the city is relying on a desalinization plant to get water to its residents. Desalination plants are primarily used for seawater in coastal areas.
The effects of the drought go past residential water needs, however. The low water levels in the Rio Grande have strained the river’s fish and mollusks, with scientists scrambling to save as many endangered Rio Grande silvery minnows as possible from the drying river. The species is doing worse now than it did when conservation efforts began ten years ago, in part due to the drought. Grass has dried up and hay prices have skyrocketed, forcing ranchers to sell their cattle, which in turn has helped shrink the U.S. cattle herd to the smallest it’s been in at least four decades.