Seems as if it's already starting in the US: Three of the eight pumps that tap into the glistening reservoir of Colorado River water near here are sitting idle, by order of the federal government. With the pumps switched off since 8 a.m. New Year's Day, less water is churning down the 242-mile aqueduct toward coastal Southern California, where 17 million people rely on snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains for washing dishes, flushing toilets and watering lawns. This is a pivotal moment in the contentious history of water in the arid West, which more often than not has pitted California's unquenchable thirst against that of its smaller but equally parched neighbors. For the first time since it was given the authority four decades ago, the United States Department of the Interior has said no to California's dipping into the Colorado River for more than its allotted share. Fortunately, <a href="http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&ncid=68&e=1&cid=68&u=/nyt/20030105/ts_nyt/in_a_first__u_s__puts_limits_on_california_s_thirst">This NY TIMES Story</a> does not need registration to read.