Environment & Science

Governors of 10 Western states meeting to discuss drought

Dry cracked earth is visible on the banks of Shasta Lake at Bailey Cove Aug. 31, 2014 in Lakehead, California. The Western Governors' Association is holding its annual meeting in Lake Tahoe from Wednesday to Friday.
Dry cracked earth is visible on the banks of Shasta Lake at Bailey Cove Aug. 31, 2014 in Lakehead, California. The Western Governors' Association is holding its annual meeting in Lake Tahoe from Wednesday to Friday.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The governors of 10 Western states are meeting in Lake Tahoe to tackle a problem that doesn't respect state boundaries — drought.

The Western Governors' Association, chaired by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, is holding its annual meeting in Lake Tahoe from Wednesday to Friday.

The governors will tackle a number of other topics throughout the three days, including energy and transportation policy. They'll also review a newly released report detailing best practices for states to mitigate the effects of drought.

Sandoval, who launched the initiative, said addressing the extreme drought gripping California, Nevada, Arizona and other states is hugely important to the future of thirsty urban areas.

"What is certain is that this unprecedented drought is a critical issue, if not the critical issue, facing the West today," he said.

The report outlines seven themes and general recommendations for states to stretch their shrinking water supplies, including ways to more efficiently use wastewater, better track soil moisture levels, work with other states and invest in water infrastructure.

It cites several examples, including a project in the Nevada town of Primm that treats wastewater from hotels and casino and recycles it to cool a nearby power plant. The report also credits Denver Water for investing in toilet replacement rebates and other reductions, driving down water demand to 1973 levels.

The length of the drought has businesses and governments looking to make permanent changes to water policy, rather than reactive shifts to a few years of drought, Deloitte water strategy consultant Will Sarni said.

"If you believe it's a drought, a good rain will make life better and you can go back to business as usual, and we really can't go back to business as usual," Sarni said.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is also scheduled to give a keynote speech Wednesday and take questions from the governors.

Sandoval will be joined by governors from Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota, Alaska and Guam.