Serving as the “lifeline of the Southwest,” and one of the most heavily regulated rivers in the world, the Colorado River provides water to 35 million people and more than 4 million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000 square miles.
From its headwaters northwest of Denver in the Rocky Mountains, the 1,450-mile long river and its tributaries pass through parts of seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming and is also used by the Republic of Mexico. Along the way, almost every drop of the Colorado River is allocated for use.
The Colorado River Basin is also home to a range of habitats and ecosystems from mountain to desert to ocean.
The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.
The strategy of turning to groundwater pumping will test the limits of Arizona’s regulatory system for its desert aquifers, which targets some areas for pumping restrictions and leaves others with looser rules or no regulation at all. In Pinal County, which falls under these groundwater rules, the return to a total reliance on wells reflects a major turning point and raises the possibility that this part of Arizona could again sink into a pattern of falling groundwater levels — just as it did decades ago, before the arrival of Colorado River water.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said in a statement Thursday that a decision by House Speaker Rusty Bowers to move forward with a contentious water bill threatens the community’s plan to support the drought agreement. The Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because it’s entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal.
It’s all up to the Imperial Irrigation District. The fate of a seven-state plan to address dwindling Colorado River water supply now appears to rest squarely with the sprawling southeastern California water district. Its neighbor to the north, the Coachella Valley Water District, voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve interstate agreements that would conserve water for use by 40 million people and vast swaths of agricultural lands.
A year after Colorado River imports were diverted to urban areas from farms draining into the lake, dire predictions about what would occur are coming to pass. A long-predicted, enormous ecological transition is occurring this winter.
The coring project is the initial phase of a multiyear analysis in partnership with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the National Park Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The agencies have set aside $1.3 million for the study, about half going toward extracting the cores.
The Colorado river crisis ought to be upsetting markets. The U.S. waterway supports some $4 trillion in GDP and at least $1.3 trillion in stock value across seven U.S. states. The river was already virtually tapped out last century, and continuing troubles have now led the federal government to step in to help manage its water use. Yet investors have barely caused a ripple.
The Imperial Irrigation District holds among the oldest and largest rights to water from the Colorado River and is using that as leverage to get what it sees as a better deal in current drought contingency plan negotiations involving states that draw from the river. Among the hardball tactics IID is putting in play: A demand that the federal government provide $200 million for efforts to bolster the beleaguered Salton Sea.
Arizona and California aren’t done finishing a plan that would establish how states in the Colorado River Basin will ensure water for millions of people in the Southwest, said the head of the agency running the negotiations. … One challenge comes from the Imperial Irrigation District, a water utility that serves the Imperial Valley in southeastern California. It hasn’t signed California’s plan because it wants $200 million to restore the vanishing Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake.
Once criticized for being a profligate user of water, fast-growing Phoenix has taken some major steps — including banking water in underground reservoirs, slashing per-capita use, and recycling wastewater — in anticipation of the day when the flow from the Colorado River ends.
In the event that water elevation decreases below 1,050-feet, officials have developed a plan to address operational needs. Due to the government shutdown, the public wasn’t able to provide comment on the low water plan for Lake Mead. So an extension has been provided through Feb.15.
A notice published recently in the Federal Register is not sitting well with Imperial Irrigation District. That notice, submitted by the Department of Interior through the Bureau of Reclamation and published on Feb. 1, calls recommendations from the governors of the seven Colorado River Basin state for protective actions the Department of Interior should take in the absence of a completed drought contingency plan.
A major deadline just passed without unanimous agreement among Western states over the future of the Colorado River, so the federal government is one step closer to stepping in on the dwindling river that provides water for 1-in-8 Americans. The path forward has become murkier for the drought-stricken region now in its 19th year of low water levels after a January 31 deadline failed to garner signed agreements from Arizona and California.
Did the goalposts just move on us? … Media reports suggest that Reclamation is lumping Arizona with California, which clearly did not meet the deadline, in its reasoning for taking an action that we had all hoped to avoid. It’s easy to feel betrayed by that, to conclude that Arizona was asked to move mountains and then when we did, we were told it still wasn’t good enough.
All eyes were on Arizona this week as state lawmakers took a last-minute vote on their part of the pact. They approved the plan Thursday afternoon, just hours before the deadline, but Arizona officials still haven’t finalized a variety of documents. In addition, a California irrigation district with massive river rights has yet to sign off on the agreement. On Friday, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman … said the agency would start the formal legal process of soliciting comments on how it should impose cuts.
California’s Imperial Irrigation District will get the last word on the seven-state Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans. And IID could end up with $200 million to restore the badly polluted and fast-drying Salton Sea. Thursday, as the clock ticked toward a midnight deadline set by a top federal official, all eyes had been on Arizona. But lawmakers there approved the Colorado River drought deal with about seven hours to spare. IID, an often-overlooked southeastern California agricultural water district, appears to have thrown a last-minute monkey wrench into the process.
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of drought and water shortages that is threatening their future. With an official water emergency declaration now possible, farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less water and survive. Third in a series.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed a drought contingency plan Thursday afternoon, six hours ahead of the deadline set by a key federal official for the state to act or face having its Colorado River water supply determined by her.That came despite objections from some legislators who questioned why the state will allow Pinal County farmers to once again pump groundwater for their crops and will also provide cash to help them do it.
The Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s Western water bureaucracy that saw its dam-building heyday in the 1960s, has risen in stature once again in the Trump administration. Reclamation has flexed its muscles on Colorado River drought management plans… And it has been the administration’s key player in trying to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise to deliver more water to California farmers, squeezing the state and forging ahead on a dam project California says it doesn’t want.
Warnings of doomsday on the river are nothing new. Too many people, farms and factories depend on too little water, which is why the Colorado now rarely flows to its end point at the Gulf of California. The sprawling Southwest has sucked the river dry. Yet the region has thrived in spite of the naysayers. Until now, it appears.
The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of significant Colorado River events.
Arizona lawmakers appear on track to pass a Colorado River drought plan, with less than 30 hours to go before a critical federal deadline. A state Senate committee voted 6-1 Wednesday evening to pass a pair of measures that outline how the state would share looming cutbacks on the river’s water and work with other states to take less. The bills now head to the full Senate and House. Both chambers are expected to pass the bills Thursday, an effort that could stretch into the night as they rush to meet a federal deadline.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes, or CRIT, have lands that stretch along 56 miles of the lower Colorado River. The tribe’s right to divert nearly 720,000 acre-feet from the river is more than twice the water that is allocated to the state of Nevada. By law, that water is to be used on the reservation. But if CRIT convinces Congress to allow off-reservation leasing, the change would free up a large volume of water that would be highly desirable for cities and industries.
Avoiding a long-expected crisis on the Colorado River, a water source for 40 million people, is coming down to a final few days of frenzied negotiations. A 19-year drought and decades of overuse have put a water shortfall on the horizon. If California and six other states, all with deeply entrenched interests, can’t agree on a plan to cut their water consumption by Jan. 31, the federal government says it will step in and decide the river’s future.
Water conservation in the Las Vegas Valley is imperative as the city continues to grow. The resources provided by the Colorado River are stretched thin, as the river is responsible for supplying the majority of the water to Southern Nevada, six other states—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado—and Mexico. Combine these existing allotments with drought conditions that have reduced the river’s average flows by 30 percent annually, and it’s clear that Las Vegas must be proactive in its conservation efforts.
In Arizona, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan now hinges on the approval of tribal nations. The plan is meant to levy water cuts to seven Western states in order to prevent the river and its reservoirs from reaching critical levels — but after a state lawmaker introduced legislation that undermines parts of the Gila River Indian Community’s water settlement, the tribe has threatened to exit the plan. Without tribal buy-in, Arizona’s implementation design will collapse….
The Colorado River is not meeting its obligations. Its Lake Powell bank account is in danger of running dry. A 97-year-old agreement demands that the river deliver 5.2 trillion gallons of water to seven states and Mexico each year. That isn’t happening, and now — in the age of climate change — the chance of ever meeting that demand is fading. As a result, Utah’s plan to take more of its Colorado River water — by building a pipeline from Lake Powell to St. George — may be fading, too.
Arizona’s water leaders and lawmakers are running out of time to complete the state’s Drought Contingency Plan, a blueprint for how Arizona water users would share a likely shortage on the Colorado River. … There are a lot of moving parts to understand and a lot of concepts that may seem overwhelming. Here are the things you need to know in advance of the Jan. 31 deadline to finish the plan.
The restoration site is one of three south of the U.S.-Mexico border, in the riparian corridor along the last miles of the Colorado River. There, in the delta, a small amount of water has been reserved for nature, returned to an overallocated river whose flow has otherwise been claimed by cities and farms. Although water snakes through an agricultural canal system to irrigate the restoration sites, another source is increasingly important for restoring these patches of nature in the delta’s riparian corridor: groundwater.
Arizona lawmakers and the governor are under the gun to come up with a Drought Contingency Plan to deal with possible Colorado River water shortages. Get an update from Kathleen Ferris of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. This Arizona Horizon segment is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between public radio and public television stations in Arizona, California and Colorado.
With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water?
Coachella Valley Water District board members on Tuesday debated issuing a $40 million bond to pay for an extension of the Oasis pipeline to bring imported water to about 40 farmers and others in the irrigation district, who would pay the costs back over 30 years. A small rate increase could be imposed as well. The 17-mile pipeline and three pump stations would provide Colorado River water to mostly longtime farmers in the valley who already obtain much of their water from the river via the All-American Canal, but get some from wells.
Without a change in how the Colorado River is managed, Lake Powell is headed toward becoming a “dead pool,” essentially useless as a reservoir while revealing a sandstone wonderland once thought drowned forever by humanity’s insatiable desire to bend nature to its will. … Absent cutbacks to deliveries to the Lower Basin, a day could come when water managers may have little choice but to lower the waters that have inundated Utah’s Glen Canyon for the past half-century.
Longstanding urban-rural tensions over a proposed drought plan have escalated after Pinal County farmers stepped up their request for state money for well-drilling to replace Colorado River water deliveries. “Enough is enough,” responded 10 Phoenix-area cities through a spokesman. They say the state has already pledged millions to the farms for well drilling, and plenty of water to boot.
A declining Colorado River in Arizona. Orcas and salmon stocks in Washington state. Forest restoration in Idaho to protect drinking water sources from wildfire. And renewable energy seemingly everywhere. These are some of the water issues that U.S. governors have mentioned in their 2019 State of the State speeches. The speeches, usually given at the beginning of the legislative session, outline budget or policy priorities for the coming year.
The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been hashing out for months.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California … began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A. takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy and broke the story for Politico Pro.
A proposed Colorado River drought plan that will cost well over $100 million is just the beginning of what’s needed to protect the over-allocated river, says Bruce Babbitt, the former governor who rammed through Arizona’s last big water legislation nearly four decades ago. After Gov. Doug Ducey urged legislators to “do the heavy lifting” and pass the proposed drought-contingency plan for the Colorado, Babbitt said Monday that authorities will have to start discussing a much longer-term plan immediately after it’s approved.
Following one of the hottest and driest years on record, the Colorado River and its tributaries throughout the western U.S. are likely headed for another year of low water. That’s according to a new analysis by the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado Boulder. Researcher Jeff Lukas, who authored the briefing, says water managers throughout the Colorado River watershed should brace themselves for diminished streams and the decreasing likelihood of filling the reservoirs left depleted at the end of 2018.
Everywhere you look new homes, hotels and master-planned developments are appearing. It is wise to ask whether we have enough water for these future desert residents and visitors. Permits for new projects are under the jurisdiction of cities or the county — not under the purview of water agencies. Water agencies are tasked with supplying the water. Balancing growth and water supplies is nothing new to desert communities. It has always been a fact of life in our desert and is one of Desert Water Agency’s most important responsibilities.
Arizona legislators and staff are attending closed-door primers on water policy in advance of a critical January 31 federal deadline for the state to approve the Drought Contingency Plan. The first of three meetings occurred on Friday afternoon and lasted two and a half hours. The session was led by Central Arizona Project general manager Ted Cooke and Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.
As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water may be cut off.
The Colorado River may not look like it, but it’s one of the world’s largest banks. The river is not only the source of much of the American West’s economic productivity – San Diego, Phoenix and Denver would hardly exist without it – but its water is now the central commodity in a complex accounting system used by major farmers and entire states. … This month, the nation’s largest water agency, the Metropolitan Water District, began what amounts to a run on the bank.
Up against a federal deadline to approve a Colorado River drought plan — a “generational change” in Arizona water management — four key legislators say they’re optimistic they’ll meet it. Led by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa Republican, they see the Legislature as ready — finally — to officially endorse the plan. That’s even though competing water interest groups still have highly visible disagreements about it.
With a federal deadline to sign a Colorado River drought deal three weeks away, Arizona water managers are still grappling with several unresolved issues that could get in the way of finishing an agreement. The outstanding issues, some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’ concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to pump more groundwater.
In a 5-3 vote Wednesday that — intriguingly — fell along gender lines, the Phoenix City Council approved an increase in water rates, starting next month. “I thank the women to have the leadership and courage to do the right thing. 5-3,” Interim Mayor Thelda Williams said. … Wednesday’s vote overturned the council’s previous rejection of the proposed increase, on December 12, that was also 5-3.
First, the good news: The negotiators of Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan have crafted the most detailed, concrete proposal to date laying out how Arizona will deal with expected cutbacks to its supply of Colorado River. Now, the bad: The partial shutdown of the federal government is squeezing these negotiators.
Gov. Doug Ducey used his second inaugural speech Monday to exhort lawmakers and others with a claim to Colorado River water to approve a drought contingency plan before a solution is imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s simple: Arizona and our neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado River than Mother Nature puts back,” the governor told his audience. “And with critical shortfall imminent, we cannot kick the can any further.”
At Monday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Water District’s Planning & Stewardship Committee, officials said that with no Drought Contingency Plan in place (Arizona being the hold out), they are beginning to draw down their storage in Lake Mead. “If there is no Drought Contingency Plan, we don’t want to leave potentially half a million acre-feet or more locked up in Lake Mead if we go into shortage,” said General Manager Jeff Kightlinger.
A team of researchers concludes that the ongoing drought across the western U.S. rivals most past “megadroughts” dating as far back as 800 A.D. — and that the region is currently in a megadrought. Using tree ring data as a proxy for drought conditions, the researchers say the current drought ranks fourth worst among comparable 19-year periods of megadroughts of the past 1,200 years.
Southern Nevadans will see few noticeable consequences from a soon-to-be-finalized drought contingency plan for states that get most of their water supply from the Colorado River, according to a Southern Nevada water resources expert.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges. Catch up on these stories and more in Western Water Year in Review.
It has been called speculative, foolhardy and overly expensive, but Aaron Million’s plan to pump water from the Utah-Wyoming border to Colorado’s Front Range just won’t dry up. Now seeking water rights from the Green River in Utah for a new version of his plan, Million thinks he has fashioned a winning proposal to feed Colorado’s thirsty, growing population.
Colorado River water managers were supposed to finish drought contingency plans by the end of the year. As it looks now, they’ll miss that deadline. If the states fail to do their job, the federal government could step in. Luke Runyon, a reporter with KUNC who covers on the Colorado River Basin recaps what’s been happening and why it’s so important.
A handful of environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to halt construction on an expansion of Gross Dam in the Boulder County foothills. Denver Water is proposing to increase the dam’s height by more than 130 feet to store more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters in the reservoir. The suit filed in Denver’s U.S. District Court alleges the construction project would negatively affect the Colorado River, harming native, endangered fish.
As stakeholders labor to nail down effective and durable drought contingency plans for the Colorado River Basin, they face a stark reality: Scientific research is increasingly pointing to even drier, more challenging times ahead.
The latest sobering assessment landed the day after Thanksgiving, when U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment concluded that Earth’s climate is changing rapidly compared to the pace of natural variations that have occurred throughout its history, with greenhouse gas emissions largely the cause.
As stakeholders labor to nail down effective and durable drought contingency plans for the Colorado River Basin, they face a stark reality: Scientific research is increasingly pointing to even drier, more challenging times ahead. That reality could pose daunting challenges for Colorado River water managers and others who are already confronting the likelihood of near-term shortages, and looking ahead to longer-term concerns about the river’s sustainability. By Gary Pitzer in Western Water
In a story Dec. 13 about the Colorado River, The Associated Press erroneously reported the river’s mouth. The river empties into the Gulf of California, not the Gulf of Mexico. A corrected version of the story is below: Southwestern US states get Jan. 31 deadline for drought deal
On stage in a conference room at Las Vegas’s Caesars Palace, Keith Moses said coming to terms with the limits of the Colorado River is like losing a loved one. “It reminds me of the seven stages of grief,” Moses said. “Because I think we’ve been in denial for a long time.” Moses is vice chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, a group of four tribes near Parker, Arizona.
With the water level in Lake Mead hovering near a point that would trigger a first-ever official shortage on the Colorado River, representatives of California, Arizona and Nevada are trying to wrap up a plan to prevent the water situation from spiraling into a major crisis. The plan is formally called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
The head of the federal agency controlling the Colorado River said Thursday the U.S. government will impose unprecedented restrictions on water supplies to the seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the river unless everyone agrees by Jan. 31 on a plan to deal with an expected shortage in 2020.
Water managers from seven Southwestern states that depend on the Colorado River are close but haven’t finalized an unprecedented drought contingency plan they may have to enact in 2020. The federal government’s top water official, Brenda Burman, is expected to urge action Thursday at a Colorado River Water Users Association conference in Las Vegas where a pact was supposed to be signed.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday approved a plan for sharing Colorado River delivery cuts if a shortage is declared on the drought-depleted river. The vote by the district, which imports water to the Southland, represents another step in a years-long attempt to forge a shortage agreement among the seven states that depend on the Colorado for drinking and irrigation supplies.
The Imperial Irrigation District, which holds some of the oldest and largest rights to Colorado River water, on Monday tentatively agreed to a one-time contribution of up to 250,000 acre-feet of surplus water if needed to stave off shortages in Lake Mead. But they tacked on several last-minute conditions aimed at easing farmers’ fears of permanently losing water, and to force federal and state officials to guarantee funding for clean-up of the Salton Sea.
A property tax hike could be coming to Washington County, with water managers saying they need to increase revenues to cover the costs of developing new water resources for the St. George area, including the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline. … A public hearing on the plan is slated for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Washington County Water Conservancy District office.
With drought entering a second decade and reservoirs continuing to shrink, seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the overtaxed Colorado River for crop irrigation and drinking water had been expected to ink a crucial share-the-pain contingency plan by the end of 2018. They’re not going to make it — at least not in time for upcoming meetings in Las Vegas involving representatives from Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the U.S. government, officials say.
The agency that manages the Central Arizona Project canal signaled its support for the latest outline of a Colorado River drought plan on Thursday in a vote that could lay the groundwork for a deal aimed at preventing Lake Mead from reaching perilously low levels. … And with this vote behind them, Arizona water officials will now have the framework of a state plan in hand as they join other water managers from across the West in Las Vegas next week for the annual Colorado River Water Users Association conference, where federal officials have said they hope to wrap up a Drought Contingency Plan.
Arizona says it’s one step closer to figuring out how to divvy up water cuts as the supply from the Colorado River becomes more limited. Several Western states that rely on the river are working on drought plans. The federal government wants them done by the end of the year.
A state judge on Thursday turned down a powerful Imperial Valley farmer’s request for an injunction against his irrigation district to stop them from signing a major Colorado River conservation plan. Superior Court Judge L. Brooks Anderholt denied the motion by Michael Abatti and his attorneys, a court clerk told The Desert Sun.
Arizona’s water agencies, cities, farmers and tribes haven’t quite sealed a Colorado River deal. But they’re getting closer. The outline of a new compromise proposal emerged this week and was presented at a meeting on Thursday.
In a chapter dedicated to climate change effects in the southwest, climate scientists say “with very high confidence” that warm temperatures are reducing the water content of mountain snowpack and the flows of rivers and streams that depend on snowmelt. The chapter’s landing page features a photo of low water levels at the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead outside Las Vegas, Nevada, a near perfect symbol of the region’s ongoing water challenges.
A group of powerful Imperial Valley farmers and their irrigation district need to work together for the benefit of the region, according to Superior Court Judge L. Brooks Anderholt. He warned a fight between the two sides over rights to Colorado River water and the need to address a prolonged drought across the Southwest could spur action by Congress, or end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
A fierce local battle over water rights unfolding in a small Southern California courtroom Wednesday could threaten federal plans to replenish rapidly dwindling Colorado River water supplies. A third-generation farmer is seeking an injunction to block the Imperial Irrigation District from signing on to the seven-state compact. The hearing comes a day-and-a-half after the longtime general manager for the district, Kevin Kelley, announced he will retire at year’s end, though he could stay on as a consultant.
In the week following a controlled flood on the Colorado River, Mick Lovett saw lots of fat fish near Lees Ferry, about 15 miles down river from Glen Canyon Dam. The fishing was expected to be excellent in that stretch of the river after the four-day flood stirred up extra food for the fish, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Colorado River water managers have plenty to argue about. But there’s one thing on which nearly everyone who relies on the southwestern river can agree. The foundational document that divvies up the water — the Colorado River Compact — has some big flaws. Discussion on how to fix the compact’s problems is where that consensus breaks down, often with the invocation of one word: renegotiation.
The Latest on drought contingency plans being considered by states that rely on the Colorado River … Las Vegas-area water managers have become the first to advance a multi-state drought contingency plan that officials hope will ease the effects of Colorado River water shortages.
Octavia Patno and her mom, a federal hydraulic engineer, stood on a narrow walkway at the base of Glen Canyon Dam Monday morning, their heads covered with hard hats. The Colorado River flowed below. Red-rock canyon walls towered above. The dam’s hydropower turbines hummed.
The gap between Pinal County farmers and the Gila River Indians over how to protect the Colorado River and Lake Mead is far wider than the interstate highway separating their communities. … The Drought Contingency Plan’s goal is to reduce Arizona, Nevada and California’s take from the Colorado River over the next decade or so.
As the Colorado River Basin becomes drier and shortage conditions loom, one great variable remains: How much of the river’s water belongs to Native American tribes? Increasingly, tribes are pressing to have the importance of their water rights recognized and seeking the means to use them. An impending tribal water study should shed light on the issue as questions are raised about how to sustainably share water in an already overallocated Colorado River Basin.
As the Colorado River Basin becomes drier and shortage conditions loom, one great variable remains: How much of the river’s water belongs to Native American tribes?
Native Americans already use water from the Colorado River and its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including leasing it to non-Indian users. But some tribes aren’t using their full federal Indian reserved water right and others have water rights claims that have yet to be resolved. Combined, tribes have rights to more water than some states in the Colorado River Basin.
Water managers along the Colorado River are trying to figure out how to live with less. Climate change is growing the gap between the river’s supply, and the demands in the communities that rely on it, including seven western U.S. states and Mexico.
A public agency and a powerful farmer are gearing up for a high-stakes court battle to determine who owns the largest share of Colorado River water in the West, complicating the river’s future as seven western states scramble to avoid severe water shortages. There’s a long history of fighting over water in California’s Imperial Valley, which has a legal right to more than 1 trillion gallons of Colorado River water each year — twice as much as the rest of California, and as much as Arizona and Nevada combined.
Western Slope water managers have doubled down on their position that they will oppose federal legislation creating a new regulated pool of water to boost the falling level of Lake Powell unless Colorado adopts a policy that the pool should be filled only on a voluntary basis. … Water managers from Southern California to Wyoming are watching the ongoing debate because if Colorado can’t reach a consensus, an ongoing effort to establish a “drought contingency planning” program could falter.
Nearly a decade ago, Gabriel Lozada, a man with a wiry frame and waves of steel-gray hair who looks exactly like the mathematician he is, set out to answer what he thought was a relatively simple question: Could Utah’s proposed Lake Powell Pipeline — a plan to ferry Colorado River water to southern Utah — live up to the state’s rosy forecasts of growth and prosperity?
With a deadline approaching for Arizona to finish a deal that would divvy up cutbacks in Colorado River water deliveries, the state’s cities, tribes and agricultural irrigation districts are entering what should be the final stretch of negotiations.
In the 55 years since the federal government poured more than 5 million cubic yards of concrete across the Colorado River to form Glen Canyon Dam, the demand for water and electricity in Arizona, Nevada and California has turned the river’s ecology upside down. A river once wild, muddy and warm now flows cold and clear, every drop measured out to supply cities and farms downstream. Water levels ebb and flow hourly, erasing the spring surges and summer droughts innate in desert rivers.
Key reservoirs along the Colorado River are collectively at their lowest point at the start of a new water year since the last one filled nearly 40 years ago. As of Oct. 1 reservoirs that store the Colorado River’s water are at just under 47 percent of their capacity, according to recently released data from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
It was another bad year on the Colorado River, and the numbers prove it. … “We had a pretty good year in 2017, with an inflow into Powell of 110 percent of average. But unfortunately we lost that storage and a little bit more in 2018,” said Dan Bunk, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist.
Mitt Romney took up the question of water shortage this week in Utah, one of the driest states in the country, during a debate as he runs for a U.S. Senate seat in his adopted home state against Democrat Jenny Wilson. But federal water managers say he oversimplified a complex issue when he said Utah’s unused water allotment goes to California.
After years of stop-and-go talks, California and two other states that take water from the lower Colorado River are nearing an agreement on how to share delivery cuts if a formal shortage is declared on the drought-plagued waterway. Under the proposed pact, California — the river’s largest user — would reduce diversions earlier in a shortage than it would if the lower-basin states strictly adhered to a water-rights pecking order.
Seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the overtaxed Colorado River have reached landmark agreements on how to manage the waterway amid an unprecedented drought, including a commitment by California to bear part of the burden before it is legally required to do so, officials said Tuesday. The agreements are tentative and must be approved by multiple states and agencies as well as the U.S. government.
In 2007, years into a record-breaking drought throughout the southwestern U.S., officials along the Colorado River finally came to an agreement on how they’d deal with future water shortages — and then quietly hoped that wet weather would return. But it didn’t.
The phrase “climate change” did not appear on the agenda of a recent three-day meeting of the Colorado Water Congress, but the topic was often front and center at the conference, as it increasingly is at water meetings around the state and the region. Amy Haas, the new executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, told the Water Congress audience of about 300 water managers, irrigators, engineers and lawyers that “hydrology is changing more rapidly than we once thought” and that “it is primarily due to climate change.”
Snowmelt is shrinking and runoff is coming earlier on the Upper Colorado River, the source of 90 percent of water for 40 million people in the West. This is leading to vegetation changes, water quality issues and other concerns. But it may be possible to operate reservoirs differently to ease some of these effects. In September’s episode of Deeply Talks, we spoke with two experts about the consequences and opportunities of these changes on the river.
Another rare Colorado River fish has been pulled back from the brink of extinction, the second comeback this year for a species unique to the Southwestern U.S. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to announce Thursday that it will recommend reclassifying the ancient and odd-looking razorback sucker from endangered to threatened, meaning it is still at risk of extinction, but the danger is no longer immediate.
The 20-year ban was meant to slow a flurry of mining claims over concern that the Colorado River — a major water source serving 30 million people — could become contaminated and to allow for scientific studies.
Once considered pipe dreams, the concept of saving the Salton Sea by tapping ocean water from Mexico, to keep the accidental salt lake from drying up, will get an official consideration at two meetings in the desert this week.
BURMAN ADDRESSES COLORADO RIVER, CALIFORNIA WATER NEEDS IN SUMMIT TALK; LEARN MORE ABOUT COLORADO RIVER WITH FOUNDATION MAPS, GUIDES
The Colorado River is likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could force water supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously” underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience at the Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento. Burman’s talk highlighted the challenges to the Colorado River Basin from persistent drought, and the efforts to come to terms on a drought contingency plan to stave off more draconian supply cuts to those who depend on the river for their water.
[Steve] Baskis was among five blind veterans — heroes chasing hero lines — kayaking the length of the Grand Canyon this month. … The Colorado River’s stretch through the Grand Canyon was first explored by a man with one arm. The blind veterans embraced John Wesley Powell’s legacy, giving the world a glimpse of inspiration and possibility just as that legendary explorer did 149 years ago.
The Colorado River Basin is more than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously” underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said during a talk in Sacramento. Burman, speaking at the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit, also said California needs more water storage, and added that raising Shasta Dam could be one way to effectively add storage.
The Colorado River Basin is more than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously” underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of California water industry people.
During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees that agreement can be reached.
The federal agency that had been handling the permitting process for the Lake Powell Pipeline announced Thursday it doesn’t have jurisdiction to handle the entire project on its own. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission submitted an order indicating it would only consider permitting for the hydroelectric facilities proposed for the project, and not the remaining 89 miles of connecting water delivery pipelines, although it would continue as the lead agency in charge of environmental analysis.
Utah has some difficult financial decisions to make as it considers the Lake Powell Pipeline. The governor-appointed Executive Water Finance Board toured Washington County water facilities Tuesday as part of its second and final day of meetings in Southern Utah. Board members are considering the pipeline and its potential costs to both the St. George area and the state as a whole.
In increasingly dry conditions, cities from Australia and the Middle East to the American Southwest are pursuing groundwater, either as an integral piece of their future water supply or as an emergency stopgap measure. Los Angeles, looking long-term, aims to double the share of its water supply that comes from groundwater by 2040 and cut reliance on distant and shrinking sources like the Colorado River.
Monsoon storms in the desert Southwest are vital for recharging groundwater – but it now appears likely this recharge effect may be compromised by climate change. The major cities of the Southwest – Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Las Vegas – currently get most of their freshwater from the Colorado River or its tributaries. That river, however, is experiencing its 19th straight drought year, suggesting a new permanent dry state is gripping the giant watershed.
A Canadian energy company will add to its helium operation with more than 3,000 acres of newly leased federal land near Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona. … Several rivers and streams flow near the leased parcels and empty into the Colorado River, which supplies water to 40 million Americans.
The Colorado River watershed faces increasing challenges from chronic water shortage. And it appears increasingly likely this is a new permanent condition, not an episodic drought. … Jack Schmidt, a professor of watershed sciences at Utah State University, is about to start a large new research project to explore reservoir operations in the watershed.
USGS SCIENTIST TED KENNEDY DISCUSSES EFFORT TO ENHANCE FOOD WEB TO AID ENDANGERED FISH AS WELL AS BIRDS AND BATS
Water means life for all the Grand Canyon’s inhabitants, including the insects that are a foundation of the ecosystem’s food web. But hydropower operations upstream on the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam disrupt the natural pace of insect reproduction as the river rises and falls, sometimes dramatically. Eggs deposited at the river’s edge are often left high and dry. Their loss affects available food for endangered fish such as the humpback chub.
Like rust slowly consuming the body of a car, drought has spread upstream on the Colorado River. The river’s Upper Basin – generally north of Lake Powell – has been largely insulated from the 19-year drought afflicting the giant watershed, thanks to the region’s relatively small water demand and heavy snows that bury Colorado’s 14,000ft peaks each winter. But this year, there was no salvation in the snowpack.
Water means life for all the Grand Canyon’s inhabitants, including the many varieties of insects that are a foundation of the ecosystem’s food web. But hydropower operations upstream on the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam, in Northern Arizona near the Utah border, disrupt the natural pace of insect reproduction as the river rises and falls, sometimes dramatically. Eggs deposited at the river’s edge are often left high and dry and their loss directly affects available food for endangered fish such as the humpback chub.
A top Nevada water and power official has been tapped by the Trump administration to lead the International Boundary and Water Commission for the United States and Mexico. The White House on Friday announced plans to appoint Jayne Harkins, executive director of the Colorado River Commission of Nevada, to head up the U.S. side of the cross-border treaty organization.
Warming temperatures are sapping the Colorado River, the water source for more than 40 million people in the southwest. A new study finds over the last 100 years the river’s flow has decreased by more than 15 percent. Colorado State University researcher Brad Udall co-authored the study with UCLA scientists Mu Xiao and Dennis Lettenmaier.
The White House plans to nominate Jayne Harkins, head of the Colorado River Commision of Nevada, to represent United States’ international interests related to the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers, both shared with Mexico. In a statement, the White House said it would nominate Harkins as the U.S. Commissioner on the International Boundary and Water Commission.
As Arizona officials laid the groundwork for the Central Arizona Project 50 years ago, they made promises that critics now say could imperil habitat, weaken river health amid worsening drought and cost taxpayers in a big way. In a bid to secure votes in Congress for the CAP Canal, the concrete channel that supplies Phoenix and Tucson with water from the Colorado River, Arizona struck a deal in 1968 that would give New Mexico the rights to water at Arizona’s expense.
With Lake Mead dropping to levels that could trigger water cutbacks in less than two years, there’s been a lot of talk lately about negotiating a deal to keep the reservoir from falling even further. But in a new report, scientists say the situation is just as worrisome upstream at Lake Powell. The declines there during the past 18 years, they say, also reflect the Colorado River’s worsening “structural deficit.”
Utah wants the federal government to resume its work permitting the Lake Powell Pipeline. Utah water officials in January asked to press pause on the project, worried over jurisdictional questions about whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would continue to act as the permitting agency.
The Colorado River is running low on water. The lifeline that slakes the thirst of 40 million southwestern residents is projected to hit a historic low mark within two years, forcing mandatory cuts to water deliveries in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. … Many of those who watch the Colorado River closely say it’s tapped out, citing a range of symptoms: the impending shortage declaration, the river’s inability to reach the ocean, the species whose populations tanked as dams went up.
The Front Range water district that wants to build the Chimney Hollow Reservoir and pull more water from the Colorado River is delaying construction bids and issuing revenue bonds, citing a lawsuit by Save the Colorado, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups challenging federal approvals for the project.
In the past two years, St. George has added nearly 12,000 new residents to a population of approximately 153,000 people, many of them drawn by the city’s mild climate and access to public lands. But all this growth has stoked some rising tension over water and land in this former farm town. … That’s why in 2006, the Washington County Water Conservancy District announced plans to pursue a controversial pipeline connecting Lake Powell to southwest Utah.
In a story Aug. 15 about the Colorado River, The Associated Press, relying on information from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, reported erroneously when potential cutbacks could begin if a shortage is declared. A shortage could be declared in the latter part of 2019, and cutbacks could begin in 2020, not late 2019. A corrected version of the story is below:
Despite another dry winter on the Colorado River, Lake Mead and the millions of people who rely on it will avoid a water shortage for at least one more year. According to new projections from the Bureau of Reclamation, there will be just enough water in the reservoir east of Las Vegas at the end of 2018 to stave off a first-ever federal shortage declaration that would trigger mandatory cuts in Nevada and Arizona.
A lawsuit in California’s Imperial Valley could determine who controls the single largest share of Colorado River water in the West — a few hundred landowning farmers, or the elected five-member board of the Imperial Irrigation District.
A vital reservoir on the Colorado River will be able to meet the demands of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest for the next 13 months, but a looming shortage could trigger cutbacks as soon as the end of 2019, officials said Wednesday.
Serious water shortages on the Colorado River could be less than two years away, according to new federal estimates. Yet after 19 years of drought, just 500 farmers in one Arizona county may decide the fate of the entire Southwest: By holding tight to their own temporary water supply, they could stall a conservation plan designed to save the entire region from water shortages.
In the state known as the “mother of rivers,” the third-warmest and driest period in more than a century is wreaking havoc on waterways that provide the economic lifeline for rural communities and high-alpine habitat for Colorado’s signature fish, the greenback cutthroat trout.
Two Western Slope water conservation districts are moving forward with the third phase of a “risk study” exploring how much water might be available to bolster water levels in Lake Powell, and they are doing so without state funding to avoid Front Range opposition to the study. Lake Powell today is half full and dropping and water managers say several more years like 2018 could drain the reservoir, which today contains 12.3 million acre-feet of water.
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin, including a drying climate and less water for the river. Haas talked with Western Water’s Gary Pitzer about the Upper Basin’s challenges and what’s ahead for the four Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.
Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.
The full story of Mike Abatti’s enormous influence — over the desert’s Colorado River water, agriculture and energy — has never been told. Until now. … He sued the Imperial Irrigation District, or IID, over its water apportionment plan, winning a sweeping ruling that critics say could create problems for millions of people who depend on the Colorado River.
Arizona water users are starting work on an ambitious plan to lessen the impact of Colorado River water shortages. About 40 people recently were named to a committee that will meet for the first time Thursday.
Every day, millions of gallons of water flow through pipes across the Coachella Valley and pour out to nourish lawns, artificial lakes, farmlands and a total of 121 golf courses. This lush oasis in the desert owes its existence to groundwater pumped from the aquifer and an imported supply of water from the Colorado River.
For the first time in well over a year, a clear path exists for completion of Arizona’s share of a three-state drought plan for the Colorado River. The plan would step up already-approved requirements for cuts in water deliveries to Arizona, Nevada and eventually California as Lake Mead drops below certain key levels.
Arizona water officials committed Thursday to reach a multi-state plan by the end of the year to stave off Colorado River water shortages, or at least lessen the impact. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has been prodding Western states to wrap up drought contingency plans, one each in the lower and upper basins.
The mention of one plausible future scenario along the Colorado River is enough to make some water managers in the West break into a sweat. It’s called the Compact Call, and even though it’s never happened — and is years away from ever happening — its invocation conjures up dystopian imagery of a southwest battling over scarce water supplies.
A four-year pilot program that paid ranchers and farmers in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico about $200 per acre-foot of water saved by fallowing fields in order boost water levels in Lake Powell will be put on hold after 2018. On Wednesday, the five members of the Upper Colorado River Commission unanimously passed a resolution to that effect at a board meeting.
Water leaders in Arizona are again trying to get to “yes” on a deal that deals with drought. This would help prepare the state for future cuts to its water supply if — and likely when — Lake Mead drops below specific levels. A renewed effort to achieve an agreement comes after a year of anxiety and gridlock over the future of the Colorado River.
Reservoirs that store water along the Colorado River are projected to be less than half full later this year, potentially marking a historic low mark for the river system that supplies water to seven U.S. states and Mexico. Forecasters with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expect the river’s reservoirs — Lakes Mead and Powell among them — to be at a combined 48 percent of capacity by the end of September.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority says it has more than enough water to supply new homes and businesses that could be built one day on thousands of acres of federal land just outside the Las Vegas Valley. The challenge will be getting the water there and making sure it is used — and reused — as efficiently as possible, said water authority chief John Entsminger.
It’s high-stakes time in Arizona. The state that depends on the Colorado River to help supply its cities and farms — and is first in line to absorb a shortage — is seeking a unified plan for water supply management to join its Lower Basin neighbors, California and Nevada, in a coordinated plan to preserve water levels in Lake Mead before they run too low. If the lake’s elevation falls below 1,075 feet above sea level, the secretary of the Interior would declare a shortage and Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water would be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet.
Nowhere is the domino effect in Western water policy played out more than on the Colorado River, and specifically when it involves the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona. We are seeing that play out now as the three states strive to forge a Drought Contingency Plan. Yet that plan can’t be finalized until Arizona finds a unifying voice between its major water players, an effort you can read more about in the latest in-depth article of Western Water.
Even then, there are some issues to resolve just within California.
It’s high-stakes time in Arizona. The state that depends on the Colorado River to help supply its cities and farms — and is first in line to absorb a shortage — is seeking a unified plan for water supply management to join its Lower Basin neighbors, California and Nevada, in a coordinated plan to preserve water levels in Lake Mead before they run too low.
If the lake’s elevation falls below 1,075 feet above sea level, the secretary of the Interior would declare a shortage and Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water would be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet. Arizona says that’s enough to serve about 1 million households in one year.
Despairing over the impending loss of hundreds of jobs and 85 percent of its governmental revenue, the Hopi Tribe recently sued the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) for not honoring its contract to purchase power from the Navajo Generating Station until it pays back the federal loan used to build the station and construct the 336 mile-long Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal.
A bruising battle between the Central Arizona Project and many states and water users has revitalized the push for a stillborn plan to prepare for more drought on the Colorado River. The original dustup was over whether the CAP was seeking to “game the system” of reservoir operations at lakes Mead and Powell to benefit itself at the expense of the river’s Upper Basin states: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
The Rio Grande is a classic “feast or famine” river, with a dry year or two typically followed by a couple of wet years that allow for recovery. … A study last year of the Colorado River, which provides water to 40 million people and is far bigger than the Rio Grande, found that flows from 2000 to 2014 were nearly 20 percent below the 20th century average, with about a third of the reduction attributable to human-caused warming.
The Colorado River has for years been locked in a pattern of chronic overuse, with much more water doled out to cities and farmlands than what’s flowing into its reservoirs. The river basin, which stretches from Wyoming to Mexico, has been drying out during what scientists say is one of the driest 19-year periods in the past 1,200 years.
Tens of thousands of people on the Navajo Nation lack running water in their homes. But that could change in the coming years, as the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project goes into effect. It’s expected to deliver water to the reservation and nearby areas by 2024, as part of a Navajo Nation water rights settlement with New Mexico, confirmed by Congress in 2009.
Climatologists and other experts on Wednesday provided an update on the situation in the Four Corners region — where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet. They say the area is among the hardest hit and there’s little relief expected, and even robust summer rains might not be enough to replenish the soil and ease the fire danger.
Rivers are drying up, popular mountain recreation spots are closing and water restrictions are in full swing as a persistent drought intensifies its grip on pockets of the American Southwest. … With the region’s water resources strained, a top federal official has resumed pressure on states in the Southwest to wrap up long-delayed emergency plans for potential shortages on the Colorado River, which serves 40 million people in the U.S. and Mexico.
It’s been a tumultuous year for the Imperial Irrigation District. On the energy side, IID canceled tens of millions of dollars in contracts following allegations of financial conflicts of interest against the consultant ZGlobal Inc. On the water side, the publicly owned utility was jolted by a court ruling that could make it more difficult to limit the use of Colorado River water by Imperial Valley farmers.
As California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.
Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.
In a pointed message Wednesday, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said drought and low flows continue on the Colorado with no end in sight, so it’s up to those who rely on the river to stave off a coming crisis.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the [Colorado] river, released projections showing a 52 percent chance the river’s biggest reservoir, Lake Mead in Arizona and Nevada, will fall low enough in 2020 to trigger cutbacks under agreements governing the system. … The shortage projection prompted Bureau of Reclamation Chief Brenda Burman to prod the seven river states to finish long-delayed contingency plans for worsening conditions.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the Colorado River is expected to carry only 43 percent of the average amount of water into Lake Powell, one of two huge reservoirs that store and distribute the river. It’s the fifth-lowest forecast in 54 years.
Anticipating years of drought, officials built the Yuma Desalting Plant in 1992 to treat agricultural runoff and conserve water in Lake Mead. Over the past 26 years, however, the plant has operated just three times while costing millions of dollars to maintain.
Arizona’s largest water provider tried Tuesday to defuse a multi-state dispute over the Colorado River, saying it regretted the belligerent-sounding words it used to describe its management strategy for the critical, over-used waterway. … It also pledged to cooperate on drawing up a multi-state plan for possible shortages in the river, which appear more and more likely because of the drought and climate change.
Any great fishing hole depends on the health and well-being of its bugs. In a key stretch of the Colorado River below a dam on the Arizona-Utah border, anglers have been pulling out long, skinny trout that don’t give up much of a fight with a hook in their mouths. Turns out, they don’t have enough to eat, scientists say.
In early April, federal forecasters came out with a sobering but not surprising prediction for many Colorado River water users after a grim snowpack across much of the Colorado River basin this winter. They projected that as the snow melted and entered the Colorado River system, much less water would flow into Lake Powell this spring than is normal.
The Mojave Indians call themselves Pipa Aha Macav — “The People by the River.” The Colorado River is the economic and spiritual heartland for the Mojave and three other tribes that inhabit the Colorado River Indian Reservation, about four hours west of Tucson.
A week into her appointment last fall as a Mohave County supervisor in western Arizona, Lois Wakimoto heard the words that would consume her since: We have a water problem. The entity that sends Colorado River water throughout Arizona wants to buy farmland in her district that includes Mohave Valley, pay farmers to fallow it and redirect the water to the state’s most populous areas where housing developments are booming.
A top official from the Southern Nevada Water Authority is calling on states that rely on the Colorado River to resolve their differences before a growing dispute derails decades of cooperation on the river. … The fight comes as Nevada, Arizona and California continue work on a drought contingency plan aimed at keeping Lake Mead out of shortage by voluntarily leaving more water in the reservoir.
Central Arizona water managers, facing backlash from other Colorado River users for allegedly undercutting regional conservation efforts, will visit Utah later this month aiming to smooth relations across a region struggling to agree on a way to save a key water supply.
Tension over the drought-stressed Colorado River escalated into a public feud when four U.S. states accused Arizona’s largest water provider of manipulating supply and demand, potentially threatening millions of people in the United States and Mexico who rely on the river.
Sin City has never been a place that thinks small. So it should come as no surprise that Las Vegas – about 300 miles from the Pacific Ocean – is pondering seawater desalination to meet its long-term water demand. That doesn’t mean Vegas plans to build a pipeline to the ocean. More likely, it would help pay for a desalination facility in a place like Mexico, then trade that investment for a piece of Mexico’s water rights in the Colorado River.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Over the past few years, voices calling for the removal of one of the West’s biggest reservoirs have gotten louder. And while proponents—including scientists, activists, journalists, and government officials—have cited everything from ecology to economics in their quest to decommission Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona and restore that part of the Colorado River, very little has been said about the impacts such an action would have on the house-of-cards-like network of compacts, agreements, and obligations comprising the “The Law of the River.
CAP [Central Arizona Project] water, which comes from the Colorado River, will be less available to farmers in Central Arizona in the future. There are a few reasons for that. The first is the threat of a Lake Mead water shortage, which will be declared if the lake falls below 1,075 feet in elevation.
Colorado River forecasters say the Southwest should brace for the sixth-driest runoff season into Lake Powell since the government erected Glen Canyon Dam there 55 years ago. … River flow into Lake Powell is a key measure of water supplies on the Colorado, a critical water source for millions of people in seven Western states.
Pull out a map of the United States’ desert southwest and see if you can locate these rivers: Rio del Tizon, Rio San Rafael, River Buenaventura or Rio Zanguananos. How about rivers named Tomichi, Nah-Un-Kah-Rea or Akanaquint?
Dramatic swings in weather patterns over the past few years in California are stark reminders of climate variability and regional vulnerability. Alternating years of drought and intense rain events make long-term planning for storing and distributing water a challenging task.
Current weather forecasting capabilities provide details for short time horizons. Attend the Paleo Drought Workshop in San Pedro on April 19 to learn more about research efforts to improve sub-seasonal to seasonal precipitation forecasting, known as S2S, and how those models could provide more useful weather scenarios for resource managers.
A dry winter for the region feeding the Colorado River means Lake Mead’s water level could drop, but not enough to trigger an emergency shortage declaration that would force water cutbacks in Nevada and Arizona.
Near-record low snow levels remained at 60 percent of the median or less Sunday in the southern half of Colorado in the Arkansas, Rio Grande, San Miguel, Animas, Dolores and San Juan river basins, the latest federal survey shows. In the northern half of Colorado, snowpack hovered around 84 percent of the median in the Upper Colorado River and South Platte River basins, data show.
A drought has lingered in the Colorado River Basin since 2000, causing reservoir storage to decline from nearly full to about half of capacity. So far this year, a meager snowpack in the Rocky Mountains hasn’t helped much.
In fact, forecasters say this winter will likely go down as the sixth-driest on record for the river system that supplies water to seven states, including California, and Mexico.
On our Lower Colorado River Tour, April 11-13, you will meet with water managers from the three Lower Basin states: Nevada, Arizona and California. The three states are working to finalize a Drought Contingency Plan to take voluntary cuts to keep Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, from hitting critical levels and causing a shortage declaration.
Last year, farmers who lead the irrigation district in Blythe sued the biggest urban water district in the country to challenge what they called a “water grab.” Now the Palo Verde Irrigation District has dropped that lawsuit, looking to smooth the way toward a possible settlement with the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
For years, Colorado River states have been negotiating a plan to avoid the worst – a shortage in Lake Mead so bad it could trigger unprecedented cutbacks. With the region experiencing drought conditions since 2000, even California, which has senior rights, came to the negotiating table.
An already dry winter for the Colorado River has gotten worse in recent weeks, but it won’t be enough to send Lake Mead to a record low — at least not right away. Despite worsening conditions in the mountains that feed the Colorado, forecasters still expect the reservoir east of Las Vegas to contain just enough water by the end of the year to avoid a first-ever federal shortage declaration.
Arizona will be hardest hit if 17 years of drought keep drying up a reservoir serving much of the Southwest, but the state’s lawmakers and governor don’t agree on how to keep water in the lake or who should be in charge. Lake Mead, a man-made reservoir fed by the Colorado River, is an essential water supply for several western states that will take a hit if lake levels dip much lower.
According to the National Water and Climate Center’s forecast for the Rio Grande Basin, the water supply outlook for spring and summer remains “dire.” … And conditions on the Colorado River, which feeds Lake Mead, don’t look good this year. The March forecast for the Colorado River Basin remains “well below average.”
The Salton Sea’s accelerating decline comes at the same time that water scarcity in the entire Colorado River Basin is fueling negotiations over the river’s future — and how much water agencies, cities and farmers will have to cut back if the southwest’s 18-year drought continues. Those negotiations are part of a process to create a new agreement called the Drought Contingency Plan.
U.S. scientists studying the effects of uranium mining around the Grand Canyon say they are lacking information on whether the radioactive element is hurting plants, animals and a water source for more than 30 million people. And they would not get to fully gather it if President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposal is approved.
Most people see the Grand Canyon from the rim, thousands of feet above where the Colorado River winds through it for almost 300 miles.
But to travel it afloat a raft is to experience the wondrous majesty of the canyon and the river itself while gaining perspective about geology, natural beauty and the passage of time.
Beginning at Lees Ferry, some 30,000 people each year launch downriver on commercial or private trips. Before leaving, they are dutifully briefed by a National Park Service ranger who explains to them about the unique environment that awaits them, how to keep it protected and, most importantly, how to protect themselves.
They also are told about the pair of ravens that will inevitably follow them through the canyon, seizing every opportunity to scrounge food.
If you live in Utah, chances are good that you’re getting a sweet deal on water for your lawn and landscaping. In fact, you might be paying next to nothing for it, at least compared to nearly everywhere else in the West.
We all know Hoover Dam, and you might know about the Imperial or other dams that manage the Colorado River. But the very first completed dam on the Colorado was the Laguna Dam. … Doug Cox at the Imperial Irrigation District manages the dam.
A formidable high-pressure ridge has settled off the West Coast, deflecting storms northward in much the same pattern observed in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and though scientists and policy experts debate the definition of “drought,” few would disagree that the American West is in the grip of another extraordinary dry spell.
The Colorado and the San Pedro rivers’ futures are on the line at the Legislature due to a controversial water bill. … But what’s not in the bill is also stirring conflict, particularly between the warring Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project.
Lake Powell, which straddles Utah and Arizona, is expected to get 47 percent of its average inflow because of scant snow in the mountains that feed the Colorado River, said Greg Smith, a hydrologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.