I eat

For him second time in six months, states that depend on the Colorado River to sustain their farms and cities appear to have failed to reach an agreement on restricting water use, raising the possibility of unilateral cuts by the federal government later this year.

Six of the seven Colorado River Basin states have outlined a joint proposal on how they could meet the federal government’s demand for unprecedented cuts in water use as more than two decades of drought in the West they have pushed crucial reservoirs to dangerously low levels.

But the largest water user, California, did not join them, a dead end that suggests the dispute over how to conserve the dwindling water supply that serves 40 million people will continue for months to come. The Interior Department had asked states to contribute to plans Tuesday on how to voluntarily reduce water use by between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet, or up to one-third of the river’s average annual flow.

“Obviously, all is not well,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, former general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a water provider that is a major player in the talks. “It’s quite difficult right now.”

The proposal of the six states (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) seeks to protect the main reservoirs of Lake Powell and lake mead from falling below critical levels, such as when dams could no longer generate electricity or in a “dead pond”, when water would be effectively blocked from flowing out of these lakes. Before the above-average snowfall in recent weeks, the Reclamation Office projected that lake powell it could start reaching such thresholds this summer.

Officials fear a “complete doomsday scenario” for the drought-stricken Colorado River

During the past two decades of drought, and particularly in recent years, the river’s flow has declined, yet states continue to consume more than the river provides, based on a framework established a century ago.

The proposal sets possible new cuts for southwestern states downstream of the main reservoirs (Arizona, Nevada and California), as well as for the country of Mexico, which has treaty rights to a portion of the river’s water. The proposal would result in cuts of about 2 million acre-feet, the lower limit of what the federal government has asked for, and would be higher for the biggest water consumers: California and Arizona. As reservoir levels drop, the paper suggests California, which has rights to 4.4 million acre-feet of water, would have to cut more than 1 million acre-feet.

california has offered to reduce just 400,000 acre-feet. One acre-foot is equal to 326,000 gallons, or enough to cover one acre with water one foot deep. JB Hamby, president of California’s Colorado River Board, told the Associated Press in a statement that the state “remains focused on practical solutions that can be implemented now to protect stored water volumes without triggering conflict and litigation” and will present its own plane

The other six states presented their case in a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation on Monday.

In October 2022, Lake Powell was quarter full due to a historic drought, which threatened the power supply to millions of people by the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona. (Video: John Farrell/The Washington Post)

“We recognize that over the last twenty years, there is simply far less water flowing into the Colorado River system than is leaving, and that we have effectively run out of storage to deplete,” the states wrote. State representatives added that they would continue to work together and with the federal government and others “to reach consensus on the best way to share the burden of protecting the system from which we all derive so much benefit.”

“This modeling proposal is a key step in the ongoing dialogue among the seven basin states as we continue to seek a collaborative solution to stabilize the Colorado River system,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, in a statement.

Recovery is in process environmental review how to operate Glen Canyon and Hoover dams in low water scenarios. By the summer, the process is expected to clarify the federal government’s legal authority to make unilateral cuts to states’ water allocations.

One of the central tensions of these complicated negotiations is how to balance cuts between agricultural regions and those in cities, including major population centers. Agriculture uses about 80 percent of the river’s water and also tends to hold the largest rights, some dating back to the 19th century. The way this “priority system” works, Phoenix residents would lose water before Yuma farmers. Those who grow alfalfa in Southern California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys would hold their water before people in parts of Los Angeles.

Arizona city cuts off neighborhood water supply amid drought

Kightlinger, along with many other water experts and officials, says cuts of this magnitude and severity should be shared, rather than apportioned based on seniority.

“They can’t follow the priority system. That would be a disaster. That would be: basically we’re going to put all the cuts into most of the economy. That just can’t be reality,” he said.

But the officials of these agricultural districts with longstanding water rights have no intention of relinquishing them without a fight, or without compensation that meets their needs.

Alex Cárdenas, president of the Imperial Irrigation District board of directors, noted that water rights among farmers in his area of ​​California near the border with mexico it predates the formation of the Reclamation Office, which manages the river system. Its water district uses about 2.6 million acre-feet of water a year to irrigate more than 400,000 acres of farmland for alfalfa, pasture, and other crops.

“We support the priority system on the river, and we also understand that there are painful cuts that people need to make. But we will not serve as an emergency reservoir for uncontrollable and unsustainable urban expansion,” said Cárdenas. “We’re not going to wreck our local economy so they can continue to grow their urban economy.”

As negotiations have progressed in recent months, the Imperial Irrigation District has offered to reduce its use by 250,000 acre-feet, or about 10 percent. The Biden administration helped pave the way for that offer by promising $250 million for environmental projects to address dust-ravaged shorelines around the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, which is fed by agricultural runoff from the Imperial Valley.

Cárdenas said the prospect of a 10 percent cut to the region’s $5 billion agricultural economy would spell severe economic pain for a community already suffering from high unemployment. But from the perspective of other states, even those cuts would not be enough.

Dealers have had a little help from nature to start the year. The rain and snowstorms that hit California in January raised reservoir levels in the state and blanketed the Sierra Nevada mountains in a 210 percent snowpack.not above normal for this time of year. Snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, the main source of runoff that feeds the Colorado River system, is also higher than normal but not as much as in California.

California’s snowpack, aided by atmospheric rivers, could aid drought

But the heavy rainfall has also been a double-edged sword, creating a political challenge for negotiators trying to agree painful cuts, according to analysts following the talks.

“If severe and extreme dry conditions continue, it’s easier for them to sell additional cuttings,” said Michael J. Cohen, a Pacific Institute principal investigator and Colorado River expert. “But there is this public perception that it looks like there is flooding, why do we need to take additional action now when there was so much water through all these recent storms?”

The last two years have also seen a healthy winter snow pack in the Rocky Mountains only to have runoff levels at Lake Powell that were a fraction of normal as the ground dry from the warming climate absorbs more water before it that can reach the reservoir. The water level in Lake Powell has dropped about a foot this year and is currently 33 feet above the threshold where Glen Canyon Dam could no longer produce power.

“There is a problem of aridification. But on top of that, there’s a problem with the rules,” Cohen said. “The rules that govern the system are not sustainable.”

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *