Months after the federal government’s first deadline for action passed, six states in the western United States that depend on the waters of the Colorado River are on a model to dramatically reduce water use in the basin. Agreed.
California, with the highest quota of water from rivers, is the only one resistant. Officials said states will announce their own plans.
The Colorado River and its tributaries flow through seven states and into Mexico, serving 40 million people and a $5 billion annual agricultural industry. Some of the nation’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, his two states of Mexico, and Native American tribes, have depended on rivers that have been severely stressed by drought, demand and abuse. .
The state missed a mid-August deadline to heed the US Reclamation Service’s call to suggest ways to save two to four million acre feet of water. They regrouped to reach consensus by the end of January, putting it together into a larger proposal that Reclamation is working on.
Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming sent a letter Monday to Reclamation, which runs major dams on river systems, outlining alternatives that build on existing guidelines. and deepened water disruptions and accounted for lost water. by evaporation and transport.
These states are proposing to raise the water levels that would cause water shortages in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, a barometer of river health. This model creates more protective buffers for both reservoirs, the largest reservoirs ever built in the United States.
It also called for correcting water calculations so that water intentionally retained in Lake Mead by the Lower Basin would be available for future use.
Modeling results in approximately 2 million acre-feet of logging in the Lower Basin and less in the Upper Basin. Mexico and California are included in the formula, but neither signed Monday’s letter.
John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said all states have negotiated in good faith. “I don’t consider it a failure to get unanimity at one stage of his process,” he said late Monday. “I think all seven states are still committed to working together.”
California announced a proposal last October to cut 400,000 acre feet. One acre-foot is enough water for him to supply 2-3 of her households in the United States for a year.
JB Humby, chairman of the California Colorado River Commission, said the state has come up with a practical watershed water reduction model based on voluntary action, along with a hierarchy of laws and water rights governing the river. said.
“California remains focused on practical solutions that can be implemented now to protect water storage without causing disputes or litigation,” he said in a statement Monday.
Just because six countries reach an agreement doesn’t mean anything will happen anytime soon. But failing to reach consensus risked that ultimately only the federal government would decide how to impose the cuts. By not signing on, California cannot avoid that risk.
Continuation of discussion
Debate over how to reduce water use by about a third is controversial. Upper Basins of Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah say the Lower Basins of Arizona, California and Nevada have to do the hard work. Conversations in the Lower Basin are centered around what is legal and what is fair.
The six states that signed Monday’s proposal acknowledged that their submitted ideas could be excluded from the final plans to operate a major dam on the river. Negotiations are ongoing, they noted, adding that what they were proposing would not void existing rights to the Colorado River, which other states have.
“There are many steps and commitments that need to be made at the federal, state, and local levels,” said Nevada’s Entsminger.
Monday’s proposals included taking into account water lost to evaporation and leaky infrastructure as rivers flow through dams and channels in the area. Federal officials estimate that more than 10% of river flow evaporates, leaks, or spills, but Arizona, California, Nevada, and Mexico have never accounted for that water loss.
Six states argued that once Lake Mead’s elevation dropped below 1,145 feet (349 meters), each downstream state should share in the loss, essentially deducting that amount from its quota. Reservoirs fell well below that on Monday.
Reclamation will consider six state agreements as part of a larger proposal to modify the way Glen Canyon and the Hoover Dam, Colorado River giant power stations, operate. Lakes Powell and Mead, the reservoirs behind the dam, have reached historic lows after more than two decades of drought and climate change.
The reclamation plans to draft its proposals by early March, with the goal of completing them by mid-August. Recycling says the dam will do what is necessary to ensure hydroelectricity continues to supply water.
These annual August announcements marked the last two years of forced reductions in Arizona, Nevada, and the Lower Basin of Mexico. California has been spared logging, especially in the Imperial Valley, where many of the country’s winter vegetables are grown, and in the Yuma region of Arizona, where it has the oldest and safest water rights.
Without California’s participation, the six-state proposal could only address the hydrological realities of the river. Lower Basin water managers say that without the state of California, tribes and farmers drawing water directly from the Colorado River, the conservation scale that recycling seeks cannot be achieved.
It is also unclear how much Mexico will ultimately contribute to the savings. Mexico was fully allocated 1.5 million acre-feet of land in its wettest year under a treaty signed with the United States in 1944.