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The Senate Energy Committee held a hearing Tuesday to examine solutions to extreme drought in the West, with witnesses testifying to the dire situation and the extent of the possible consequences.
Watch the hearing in the player above.
Committee Chair Joe Manchin, D-WVa., opened the hearing with a warning about fairly distributing limited water supplies and said solutions need to examine water efficiency and energy efficiency together.
“Given the current drought and high energy costs we’re seeing across the board, water conservation and efficient water use are the lowest hanging fruit to managing our demand,” Manchin said.
READ MORE: Californians could see mandatory water cuts amid continuing drought
“There are only so many ways to split such a critical and limited resource.”
Among the witnesses testifying was John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, who opened by saying the drought situation in the West is critical.
“I am not a person who’s prone to hyperbole. But I can assure you from on the ground that the ominous tenor of recent media reports is warranted,” Entsminger said.
“What has been a slow motion train wreck for 20 years is accelerating and the moment of reckoning is near.”
The hearing comes as the extreme droughts contribute to more intense and frequent wildfires in the West.
Fires broke out early this spring in multiple states in the Western U.S., where climate change and an enduring drought are fanning the frequency and intensity of forest and grassland fires. A springtime fire outside Flagstaff destroyed more than two dozen homes. Most of the residents who evacuated then are out of their homes again because of this latest wildfire.
The number of square miles burned so far this year is more than double the 10-year national average, and states like New Mexico have already set records with devastating blazes that destroyed hundreds of homes while causing environmental damage that is expected to affect water supplies.
More than 6,200 wildland firefighters are battling nearly three dozen uncontained fires across at least six states in the U.S. that had charred over 1 million acres (4,408 square kilometers), according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
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