When the Colorado River Compact was
signed 100 years ago, the negotiators for seven Western states
bet that the river they were dividing would have ample water to
meet everyone’s needs – even those not seated around the table.
A century later, it’s clear the water they bet on is not there.
More than two decades of drought, lake evaporation and overuse of
water have nearly drained the river’s two anchor reservoirs, Lake
Powell on the Arizona-Utah border and Lake Mead near Las Vegas.
Climate change is rendering the basin drier, shrinking spring
runoff that’s vital for river flows, farms, tribes and cities
across the basin – and essential for refilling reservoirs.
The states that endorsed the Colorado River Compact in 1922 – and
the tribes and nation of Mexico that were excluded from the table
– are now straining to find, and perhaps more importantly accept,
solutions on a river that may offer just half of the water that
the Compact assumed would be available. And not only are
solutions not coming easily, the relationships essential for
compromise are getting more frayed.
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“Water & the Shaping of California” is a beautifully designed
book that discusses the engineering feats, political decisions
and popular opinions that reshaped nature and society, leading to
the water projects that created the California we know today. The
book includes a foreword by the late Kevin Starr, the Golden
State’s premier historian.
Back-to-back storms from the Pacific will take aim at the West
into the weekend, with the second and larger storm of the
pairing expected to set the stage for severe weather and
blizzard conditions in the nation’s midsection next week. The
storms will continue to help grow the snowpack throughout the
West and deliver needed rainfall as far south as Southern
California. The substantial amount of snow piling up in the
mountains is crucial. Experts say that a greater snowpack means
there will be more snow to melt away in the drier months of the
spring and summer. The snowmelt can help boost soil conditions
as well as water levels on streams, rivers and water
reservoirs. Frequent storms over the past month have helped
grow the snowpack substantially in the Sierra Nevada.
As climate change continues to shrink the Colorado River’s
largest reservoirs, a group of four states that use its water
are set to lay out plans to reboot a conservation program. The
Upper Colorado River Commission – comprised of Colorado, Utah,
Wyoming and New Mexico – plans to announce details of an
extended “System Conservation Pilot Program” through which
water users could be paid to cut back on their use. The
soon-to-be-launched program aims to use a pool of $125 million
from the Inflation Reduction Act for payouts to “mitigate the
impacts of long-term drought and depleted storage,” according
to presentation slides obtained by KUNC.
The removal of four Klamath River dams, a two-year process
that’s planned to begin next spring with full removal in 2024,
was celebrated by a series of speakers Thursday at the Iron
Gate Fish Hatchery along the river. Speakers included Secretary
of the Interior Deb Haaland, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, California
Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Rep. Jared Huffmann, Yurok Tribal
Chairman Joe James and Karuk Tribal Chairman Russell “Buster”
Attebery. At a public session following an hourlong celebration
that was closed to the press and public, the six speakers took
turns praising a Nov. 17 license surrender order by the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission.
A Washington Post investigation uncovered communities
throughout the country where FEMA’s maps are failing to warn
Americans about flood risk. As climate change accelerates, it
is increasing types of flooding that the maps aren’t built to
include. The resulting picture leaves homeowners, prospective
buyers, renters and cities in the dark about the potential
dangers they face, which insurance they should buy and what
kinds of development should be restricted. The examination
surveyed extreme flooding events between June and September
across the country, by analyzing hundreds of videos and
photographs, speaking with local residents, consulting experts,
and interviewing local and federal officials.
Drought—an extended period of
limited or no precipitation—is a fact of life in California and
the West, with water resources following boom-and-bust patterns.
During California’s 2012–2016 drought, much of the state
experienced severe drought conditions: significantly less
precipitation and snowpack, reduced streamflow and higher
temperatures. Those same conditions reappeared early in 2021
prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom in May to declare drought emergencies
in watersheds across 41 counties in California.