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Conferees told Colorado River action 'absolutely critical'

Colorado River near the Grand Canyon

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The word “crisis” ended a Colorado River conference that drew representatives from Southwest U.S. states, tribes and Mexico to Las Vegas this week. A top Interior Department official closed the Colorado River Water Users Association conference on Friday calling the next three months critical for agreements to deal with drought and climate change. One deadline is next Tuesday, when federal water managers close public comment on an effort expected to yield a plan by summer to use at least 15% less river water split among seven Western U.S. states, 30 Native American tribes and Mexico. At stake is drinking water for 40 million people, hydroelectric power, and irrigation for farmers who produce most of the nation’s winter vegetables.