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Paper plates and short showers: life with no water in Arizona

•, AFP

Until the water was cut off.

The neighboring city of Scottsdale decided it could no longer afford to sell its dwindling supply from the Colorado River, as a decades-long drought bites the American West.

For three months, the couple have eaten from disposable paper plates, had lightning-quick showers only every few days and collected rainwater to flush their toilets.

"A lot of people don't take the drought seriously," said Wendy, as she stood in the kitchen of their $600,000 home.

"And we, even though we live in the desert, we really didn't take it seriously either.

"Until you have to."

- Tankers -

Homes in fast-growing Rio Verde Foothills have never had running water -- there are no mains pipes -- so the 500 households without access to their own wells bought tankerloads from Scottsdale.

Most of that city's supply comes from the Colorado River, a mighty watercourse that rises in the Rocky Mountains and winds 1,450 miles (2,300 kilometers) through seven US states and Mexico, providing a lifeline for 40 million people.

But what was one of the world's great rivers has now shrunk.

Human-caused climate change means the once-bountiful snowpack that feeds the river has dwindled.

What snow there is melts more quickly because of higher temperatures, and more is lost to evaporation.

What does become river water is subject to a more than century-old agreement on who can take how much.