As adjacent Western states, California and Nevada share similar issues related to drought and limited water resources. Both states are participants in the 1922 Colorado River Compact and the 2003 and 2007 Quantification Settlement Agreements to allocate Colorado River deliveries. Also, about two-thirds of Lake Tahoe lies in California and one-third in Nevada, and the two states have formed a compact to work together on environmental goals for the lake.
The Colorado River Sustainability Campaign has been an important behind-the-scenes player for environmentalists working on the waterway, which provides water to 40 million people. … When asked who funds his project, Sam Tucker listed five foundations. Those foundations’ grant databases showed that his campaign has received at least $8.6 million since 2016. … Almost half — $4 million — of the campaign’s money came from one source: the Walton Family Foundation. (Second of two parts.)
Arizona’s top water official says a lawsuit filed Tuesday by California’s Imperial Irrigation District could pose a threat to the newly approved multistate drought contingency plan. But Tom Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources, said he’s not worried the plan will fall apart — at least not yet.
There are at least six high-profile projects in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming that combined could divert more than 300,000 acre-feet of water from the beleaguered Colorado River. That’s the equivalent of Nevada’s entire allocation from the river. These projects are in different stages of permitting and funding, but are moving ahead even as headlines about the river’s dwindling supply dominate the news.
An unlikely advocate seems to be around every bend of the Colorado River these days: the Walton Family Foundation. The $3.65 billion organization launched by Walmart founder Sam Walton has become ubiquitous in the seven-state basin that provides water to 40 million people, dishing out $100 million in grants in the last five years alone. … The foundation’s reach is dizzying and, outside the basin, has received scant attention. (First of two parts.)
The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a thorough environmental analysis has been completed.
A new study released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts a release of up to 9 million acre-feet of water from Lake Powell to Lake Mead this year, which means a possible shortage declaration looming in 2020 might be averted. The snowpack in the Colorado River Basin is about 130 percent of average, with flows into Lake Powell predicted to be 128 percent of average during the runoff season.
President Donald Trump signed a bill Tuesday authorizing a plan for Western states to take less water from the overburdened Colorado River. The president’s signing capped a years-long process of sometimes difficult negotiations among the seven states that rely on the river. … Next, representatives from Arizona and the other Colorado River basin states who had a hand in crafting the deal are expected to meet for a formal signing ceremony.
Here’s something worth celebrating: In a rare bipartisan resolve to prevent a water crisis in the Southwest, Congress has authorized a plan to reduce consumption from the Colorado River – a major conservation milestone. It shows that when we work together as Americans, we can address some of the biggest challenges facing our nation today.
Congress passed an historic Colorado River drought deal on Monday, which is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for his signature. That leaves Arizona back to wrestling with water issues that it mostly set aside during the two years it fixated on the negotiations for the Colorado River deal.
Environmental groups have dropped their opposition to a bill they had originally blasted as a way for the state to green-light a controversial plan to pipe water from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas after the bill was amended last week. … But AB30 was altered significantly enough on Wednesday to allow those groups to feel comfortable enough to now say they are neutral on the bill.
Lawmakers on Wednesday moved an amended version of the bill following pressure from conservationists, American Indian tribes and rural communities who oppose siphoning water from remote Nevada valleys to the state’s largest city. Although the bill still requires approval from both the Assembly and Senate to become law, opponents say the watered-down version assuages their concerns about the pipeline.
Activities that remove vegetation and disturb the soil are the most harmful. “Things like energy exploration and development can do some of that as well as off-highway vehicles,” Duniway said. He said livestock overgrazing is another culprit, as well as droughts and wildfires. Climate models predict those conditions will only get worse.
A bill that would authorize the federal government to enact a drought plan for Colorado River basin states in times of shortage has passed Congress and is on its way to the White House for the president’s signature. … Its aim is to protect water users from deep losses and keep the reservoirs and river healthy.
New research finds that climate change is putting stress on wetlands in the West’s Great Basin and that is putting pressure on bird populations navigating the Pacific Flyway. Changing water conditions linked to climate change are impacting the wetland habitats that waterbirds rely on. The basin includes most of Nevada and parts of Utah, Arizona, Oregon and the eastern edge of California.
It started with a question: How big can Las Vegas grow before the water runs out? The answer from the Las Vegas Review-Journal is The Water Question, a 10-part series online and in print that brought together different parts of the newsroom. Together, staff took The Water Question from a planned Sunday package to both a series and online resource that asks and answers critical questions for Las Vegas.
On the first morning of a water conference in downtown Phoenix on Friday, an academic expert spoke of aridification in the Colorado River basin due to the ill effects of humans burning fossil fuels. After dinner, a writer of vivid predictive fiction spoke about his book “The Water Knife,” which describes Phoenix in a dusty and water-starved river basin, in the not-so-distant future.
Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation introduced legislation Tuesday on a plan to address a shrinking supply of water from a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S. West. Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva vowed to move identical bills quickly through the chambers. Bipartisan lawmakers from Colorado River basin states signed on as co-sponsors.
A plan to divvy up cutbacks to Colorado River water in times of shortage has passed its first two tests in Congress. On Thursday, a House subcommittee endorsed the Drought Contingency Plan after questioning the state and federal officials who crafted it. Thursday’s approval came a day after a Senate subcommittee endorsed the plan. Next, lawmakers in both chambers will have to negotiate and vote on bills that would allow the federal government to carry out the plan.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally vowed Wednesday to take quick action on a plan to preserve the drought-stricken Colorado River, which serves about 40 million people in the U.S. West and Mexico. … The plans that have been in the works for years got a first congressional hearing Wednesday before a subcommittee that McSally chairs. The Arizona Republican said she’ll introduce a bill soon and expects strong support.
In recent days, there have been contentions that the DCP has left a major factor out of the equation: the Salton Sea, California’s largest inland lake. But this simply is not the case. … The Imperial Irrigation District has yet to sign on to the DCP. The DCP has an on-ramp for IID’s participation if they change their minds. But with or without IID’s participation, the DCP will not adversely impact the Salton Sea…
The agreement represents the first multistate effort in more than a decade to readjust the collective rules for dealing with potential shortages. … But even as the drought agreement has earned widespread praise as a historic step toward propping up the river’s reservoirs, Arizona’s plan for implementing the deal has also drawn criticism for relying on a strategy that some argue has significant drawbacks.
On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, veteran environmental journalist Jim Robbins joins us to talk about his in-depth series headlined, “The West’s Great River Hits Its Limits: Will the Colorado Run Dry?”
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman commended Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming for reaching a consensus on the Colorado River drought contingency plan. Now the states are seeking approval from Congress to implement it.
In the coming days, Congress will begin committee hearings on unusually concise, 139-word legislation that would allow the secretary of the interior to implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP. … This agreement marks a watershed moment in building our country’s resilience to climate change.
The Colorado River Basin was already running near empty before the Trump administration approved a new deal allowing additional extractions from one of its main tributaries. While the administration found the deal would not have a significant impact on the environment surrounding the river, a collection of environmental groups say in a new federal lawsuit that it will further deplete the river basin’s supply…
What image comes to mind when you think of Lake Mead? For most, it’s likely the infamous “bathtub ring,” a troubling sign of the depleted water supply in this life-sustaining reservoir. But while this is one of the most frequently deployed images associated with the decades long “drought” in the West, do we really see it? Does it make an impact that’s strong enough to shift our perceptions and motivate us to alter our personal water consumption?
Representatives of seven states finished a landmark agreement to shore up the dwindling Colorado River and signed a letter to Congress on Tuesday calling for legislation to enact the deal. The set of agreements would prop up water-starved reservoirs that supply cities and farms across the Southwest and would lay the groundwork for larger negotiations to address the river’s chronic overallocation…
It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1 Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan, which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years because of an exceptionally wet winter. The Imperial Irrigation District, a sprawling rural water district in the southeastern corner of California, refused to sign on until the federal government pledged to provide $200 million to clean up the Salton Sea, which has not occurred.
Every year, millions of waterbirds migrating from Alaska to Patagonia take a break from that epic journey to rest, eat and breed in a stretch of wetlands spanning six Western states called the Great Basin. A warming climate has made that migration more challenging by altering how mountain snowmelt flows into the network of lakes and rivers stretching from the Sierra Nevada to the Rockies, according to a new study.
For the moment, Mother Nature is smiling on the Colorado River. Enough snow has piled up in the mountains that feed the river to stave off a dreaded shortage declaration for one more year, according to federal projections released Friday afternoon.
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is pushing legislation that would exempt its work from environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health and ecological disaster.
If, as being widely reported, the Colorado River basin states … ultimately decide to proceed with a Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan that cuts out the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), no one should be surprised. It’s simply continuing a long, and perhaps successful, tradition of basin governance by running over the “miscreant(s)”.
The Imperial Irrigation District is being written out of a massive, multi-state Colorado River drought plan at the eleventh hour. IID could sue to try to stop the revised plan from proceeding, and its board president called the latest development a violation of California environmental law. But Metropolitan Water District of Southern California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said attorneys for his agency, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and others in a working group are finalizing new documents to remove IID from the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday sealed California’s participation in a landmark Colorado River drought management plan, agreeing to shoulder more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels. With California signed on, the plan can move to Congress, which must approve the multi-state agreement before it takes effect. The MWD board took the step over the objections of the Imperial Irrigation District, which holds senior rights to the biggest allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado.
The Metropolitan Water District is positioning itself to shoulder California’s entire water contribution, with its board voting Tuesday on a proposal to essentially write out of the drought plan another agency that gets more Colorado River water than anyone else. That agency, the Imperial Irrigation District, has said it won’t approve the plan unless the federal government agrees to commit $200 million to address the Salton Sea.
The Colorado River’s federal managers have projected that if dry conditions continue, they could be unable to deliver any water at all to downstream users (including Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Diego) within five years. That’s the doomsday scenario that has led the Colorado River’s water managers and users to the cusp of adopting the Drought Contingency Plan, a temporary yet broad agreement to reduce water use and ensure that the reservoirs continue to provide a reliable water supply.
It seems like a simple question: How many people can Southern Nevada support with the water it has now? But the answer is far from easy. The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth and conservation and the severity of drought on the Colorado River. (Last in the paper’s Water Question series.)
California is now the lone holdout on an emergency drought plan for the Colorado River, and the other river states are turning up the heat to get the deal done. Representatives from Nevada and five other Western states sent a letter to California on Saturday urging water officials there to set aside their concerns and “and immediately and unconditionally approve” the so-called Drought Contingency Plan.
The question comes up with every dire media report or bleak new forecast about the Colorado River: How much longer can Nevada’s largest community continue to rely on a single source of water to power its prosperity? It’s an important question, maybe the most important. No Southwestern state gets less water from the river than Nevada. No major city depends on that water more than Las Vegas. But the Colorado is in trouble. (Part 1 of 8 in a series.)
With another deadline missed Monday, the head of the Bureau of Reclamation is now looking for the governors in the states in the Colorado River basin to tell her what they think she should do to keep water levels from dropping even lower. But there’s just two weeks for them to do that.
Days after Imperial Irrigation District officials said there had been a breakthrough in negotiations with federal officials to commit to the restoration of the Salton Sea in a mammoth Colorado River drought plan, a top federal official offered a different assessment. … The Reclamation statement said it’s up to IID to decide when they want to join the drought plan, indicating a possible avenue for them to join later that would not stymie the entire agreement.
Plans to give Nevada’s top water official more flexibility to wade into water rights disputes got a rough reception in the state Legislature. Farmers, conservationists and American Indians from Nevada and Utah turned out in opposition to the proposals in two bills. No one spoke in support of measures critics say would direct more water toward urban and suburban development at the expense of farming, ranching and the environment in rural valleys.
Winter storms have blanketed the mountains on the upper Colorado River with snow. But even this year’s above-average snowpack won’t be nearly enough to make up for the river’s chronic overallocation, compounded by 19 years of drought and the worsening effects of climate change.
With a Monday deadline looming, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has offered to break an impasse on a seven-state Colorado River drought contingency package by contributing necessary water from its own reserves on behalf of the Imperial Irrigation District. It’s not help that IID is seeking, but Metropolitan general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said he had no choice.
Follow along on our water tour of the Lower Colorado River – and keep up with any of our tours and events – through our social media channels. We’ll post updates on our Twitter account @WaterEdFdn about people, issues and places as we travel along the Lower Colorado River from Hoover Dam to the Coachella Valley Feb. 27 through March 1.
All eyes have been on the Colorado River recently with headlines across the west announcing the progress – or lack thereof – of the efforts of the seven basin states to reach agreement on the Drought Contingency Plan. So is the Colorado River in crisis? At the 2019 California Irrigation Institute conference, Dr. Brad Udall’s keynote presentation focused on answering that question.
Arizona’s efforts to finish a Colorado River drought plan are moving forward after leaders of the Gila River Indian Community announced that they will proceed with their piece of the deal. … The Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because the community is entitled to about a fourth of the water that passes through the Central Arizona Project Canal, and it has offered to kick in some water to make the drought agreement work.
The furrows in a 60-acre patch of dirt on Rodney and Tiffany Shedd’s Arizona farm still hold cotton scraps from last year’s crop. This year, that patch will stay barren for the first time in recent memory, thanks to the decline in Colorado River water for farms across Pinal County, one of America’s cotton-growing centers.
The odds are looking increasingly poor that Arizona and other Western states will meet a March 4 federal deadline for wrapping up Colorado River drought plans. That’s not just because of the ongoing conflict over a now-shelved water rights bill for Eastern Arizona that prompted a threat from the Gila River Indian Community to bolt this state’s drought plan. It’s also not just because of a Southern California irrigation district’s efforts to secure $200 million in U.S. funds to shore up the dying Salton Sea.
Rising temperatures can lower flow by increasing the amount of water lost to evaporation from soil and surface water, boosting the amount of water used by plants, lengthening the growing season, and shrinking snowpacks that contribute to flow via meltwater. … The researchers found that rising temperatures are responsible for 53% of the long-term decline in the river’s flow, with changing precipitation patterns and other factors accounting for the rest.
When people need more water, they often build dams to increase supply. But can dams increase water use in an unsustainable way, leading communities to live beyond their water means? That appears to often be the case, according to the authors of a recent paper in Nature Sustainability. Las Vegas is a textbook case.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers on Tuesday withdrew his bill that would repeal state laws on when farmers forfeit their water rights — legislation that the Gila River Indian Community said would cause it to withdraw from the multi-state drought contingency plan. But Bowers’ move did not get the tribe to sign the papers agreeing to provide Arizona with the 500,000 acre-feet of water it needs to make the drought plan a reality.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey steered away from the term “climate change” in order to garner political support for the state’s Colorado River drought plan, he indicated Friday in an interview with a Pima Community College newspaper. In that interview, he also avoided making any connection between climate change and the “drier future” (his preferred phrase) that Arizona faces. His omission bordered on a denial of the established links between the two.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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….
Federal Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman has drawn a line in the sand for Arizona and other Western states: Finish a deal to take less water from the Colorado River by Thursday, or the federal government will be forced to step in and decide how to prevent reservoirs from falling to critical levels. … The plan’s success or failure will turn on the actions of a few key players, including leaders of the Legislature, tribes, farmers, cities and the state’s water managers.
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.
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?
The Gila River Indian Community is threatening to blow up the drought-contingency plan because of efforts it says will undermine its claim to water rights. House Speaker Rusty Bowers is proposing changes to state laws in a way he said will protect the rights of farmers in the Safford Valley who have been “scratching it out” to water from the Gila River. But attorney Don Pongrace, who represents the Gila River Indian Community, said … courts have ruled those rights — and the water that goes with it — belong to the tribe.
With Lake Mead now 39 percent full and approaching a first-ever shortage, Western states that rely on the Colorado River are looking to Arizona to sign a deal aimed at reducing the risk of the reservoir crashing. The centerpiece of Gov. Ducey’s proposed legislation is a resolution giving Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke the authority to sign the Drought Contingency Plan. The package of proposed bills also would appropriate $35 million and tweak existing legislation to make the plan work.
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.
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.
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.
Gov. Doug Ducey will use his fifth State of the State speech Monday, Jan. 14, to try to corral the votes to approve a drought-contingency plan in the next 17 days or risk federal intervention. “We’re in a position now where we have a sense of urgency and focus on Arizona’s water situation,” the governor told the business community Friday in previewing the speech that kicks off the legislative session.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
They are enduring symbols of the vast Mojave Desert, but Joshua trees don’t grow everywhere. Even here in the Grapevine Mesa Joshua Tree Forest, a National Natural Landmark since 1967, you can see where the trees thin out and stop as the land rises sharply to the east.
This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water managers and others are trying to face the future.
This three-day, two-night tour 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 is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
In 2015, Albuquerque delivered as much water as it had in 1983, despite its population growing by 70 percent. In 2016, Tucson delivered as much water as it had in 1984, despite a 67 percent increase in customer hook-ups. The trend is the same for Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, said longtime water policy researcher Gary Woodard, who rattled off these statistics in a recent phone interview.
A federal judge tapped the brakes Thursday but didn’t stop a proposal for a massive and expensive water pipeline to draw underground water from rural valleys along Nevada’s eastern edge to supply the growing Las Vegas metropolitan area.
There was no electricity when Vickie Buchanan’s family came to Diamond Valley in 1958. Nor were there many crops. But there was water, and as early settlers, Vickie’s parents were given priority access under a rule fundamental to Western water law: “first in time, first in right.” A steady flow of farmers followed, planting alfalfa and timothy hay grass in the high-desert soil of the central Nevada valley.
This tour explored the Lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from a myriad of 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 is the focus of this tour.
If and when Lake Mead hits 1,075 feet, the government will declare a federal water shortage for the seven states that draw water from the Colorado River, forcing Nevada and the others to limit water use. … Despite the sobering predictions, former Las Vegas water czar Pat Mulroy is confident life will go on in the West.
The “Eagle has landed” moment came at the start of Wednesday’s Southern Nevada Water Authority board meeting, when engineering director Marc Jensen stood to announce what many people in the room were already buzzing about.
Lingering drought has helped push Lake Tahoe’s water level below its natural rim for the first time in five years, cutting off flows into the Truckee River, which has been reduced to a shallow stream as it meanders down the Sierra through Reno.
With an average annual rainfall of only 9 inches, water conservation in Nevada is essential not only in drought years, but every year. This 17-minute video features interviews with key policy-makers who explain how important it is to develop a conservation ethic for this desert state.
In the West, it is not a matter of if a drought will occur, but when. In an effort to develop a drought-proof water supply, many communities are turning to water recycling. Water recycling is reusing treated wastewater for irrigating golf courses, other urban landscapes, some crops, wetlands enhancement, industrial processes and even groundwater recharge. But many people do not understand how water is treated, recycled and reused, causing some to oppose new projects.
A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and its link to the Truckee River. The map includes Lahontan Dam and Reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin. Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin Area Office.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many of these issues.
This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, illustrates the water resources available for Nevada cities, agriculture and the environment. It features natural and manmade water resources throughout the state, including the Truckee and Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake and the course of the Colorado River that forms the state’s eastern boundary.
Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the country of Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for urban growth and expected climate change impacts.
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada. It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and today’s water supply challenges.
The Colorado River provides water to more than 35 million people and 4 million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000 square miles in the southwestern United States. 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.
This printed issue of Western Water examines how the various stakeholders have begun working together to meet the planning challenges for the Colorado River Basin, including agreements with Mexico, increased use of conservation and water marketing, and the goal of accomplishing binational environmental restoration and water-sharing programs.
This issue of Western Water examines the challenges facing state, federal and tribal officials and other stakeholders as they work to manage terminal lakes. It includes background information on the formation of these lakes, and overviews of the water quality, habitat and political issues surrounding these distinctive bodies of water. Much of the information in this article originated at the September 2004 StateManagement Issues at Terminal Water Bodies/Closed Basins conference.