The message was clear from the outset: The situation on the Colorado River is serious. Speaker after speaker at the Colorado River Water Users Association conference in Las Vegas this week stressed the severity of the moment — and were using rhetoric to match it.

In opening remarks to the conference Wednesday, Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager John Entsminger said that this was a “sobering moment” for a watershed that serves about 40 million people in the Southwest, spanning seven Western states and Mexico.

Pat Tyrrell, Wyoming’s representative for the Upper Colorado River Commission, said the issues facing the river today are “far more substantial” than they have been in recent decades.

At one point, Sara Larsen, interim executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, described it as an “unprecedented time” in the Colorado River Basin, one of “stress and challenges.”

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