The theme of this year’s Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Conference—“Many Instruments, One Orchestra”—highlights the diverse activities and water management initiatives across the basin. Thursday’s presentation on Central Arizona Project’s System Use Agreement is a great variation on that theme.
At a time of prolonged drought, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) has just released an overview of the Governor’s Water Solutions Conversation. The discussions, which came from a series of summer meetings, have the potential to transform the state’s water laws and influence negotiations about the future of the Colorado River basin for generations. But important issues are being left out of the discussion.
Wow, so this is what it looked like watching Rome burn? Or in our case, farmers’ fields and family taps running dry while Colorado River water managers hole up at Caesars Palace rearranging the deck chairs poolside. For more than a decade, the crescendo from outside the Palace has been that Southern Nevadans and the other 38 million people reliant on this river should prepare for major shortages.
States, federal and Mexican officials hailed a binational agreement this fall that they said could lead to a radical shift in how the region prepares for and responds to drought. But three months later, they appear no closer to a drought contingency plan, as negotiations have pitted states and water districts against one another, as the U.S. tries to hammer out details of the plan.
There is a sense of urgency regarding how the overallocated Colorado River is managed amid looming shortages and a grim climate change forecast. People who have dealt with river management issues for decades are girding for a heightened degree of activity that calls upon years of trust and collaboration to compose a plan for equitably sharing a vital resource.
The effects of lingering drought, and the unrelenting demand for water from farmers, cities, and energy producers converged today at Lake Mead, which drained to its lowest level since 1937 when the Hoover Dam closed off the Colorado River to begin filling the largest reservoir in the United States.
Lake Mead, the reservoir created by Hoover Dam, is anticipated this week to reach its lowest water level since the lake’s initial filling in the 1930s. The Bureau of Reclamation’s Boulder Canyon Operations Office is projecting the elevation to drop to 1,081.75 feet above sea level during the week of July 7 and to continue to drop, reaching approximately 1,080 feet in November of this year.
Drought in the southwestern U.S. will deplete the vast Lake Mead this week to levels not seen since Hoover Dam was completed and the reservoir on the Colorado River was filled in the 1930s, federal water managers said Tuesday.
Lake Mead — America’s largest reservoir, Las Vegas’ main water source, and an important indicator for water supplies in the Southwest — will fall this week to its lowest level since 1937 when the manmade lake was first being filled, according to forecasts from the federal Bureau of Reclamation.
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal Outdoors, in a post by C. Douglas Nielsen:
If you have not yet done so, and should you have the chance, get a firsthand look at the Colorado River between Hoover Dam and Willow Beach. While it is impressive to look down upon the river from atop the dam, experiencing the river at surface level is even more remarkable.
Scientists say it would have been a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. If the Glen Canyon Dam had failed, it would have changed the lives of millions of people and reshaped the history of the American West.
Arizona could be forced to cut water deliveries to its two largest cities unless states that tap the dwindling Colorado River find ways to reduce water consumption and deal with a crippling drought, officials of the state’s canal network said Tuesday.
“A point-counterpoint debate about whether one size fits all and the federal role in managing regional water resources took added significance Thursday during an American Bar Association water-law conference at a casino in drought-threatened Las Vegas.”
“The Colorado River basin is being listed as a critical conservation area under a new multi-billion dollar program that will fund conservation and soil-protection efforts, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday.”
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal, in a commentary by David Festa and John Entsminger:
“Today, there is water flowing in the Colorado River Delta — where water has not flowed regularly for half a century — all because water managers, conservation organizations and policymakers in both the United States and Mexico were able to find common ground. …Someone cue music heralding the ‘new era of Western water management.’”
From the California Department of Water Resources (DWR):
“Thousand-year tree-ring reconstructions of river flows prepared by the University of Arizona for DWR are highlighted this week at a Scripps workshop in San Diego. The workshop, led by DWR Deputy Drought Manager Jeanine Jones, is to examine patterns of climate variability that may provide predictive capability for drought or help support climate change modeling.