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:
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.
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.
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.
“A federal appeals court says environmental reviews were properly done on the nation’s largest farm-to-city water transfer, the latest ruling to uphold a 2003 agreement on how California agencies divide that state’s share of Colorado River water.”
“The Colorado River has been reunited with an old friend—the sea. Thanks to an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, water from the river has reached the Sea of Cortez in northwestern Mexico for the first time since either 1998 (according to National Geographic) or 1993 (according to AP).”
From the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Voices blog, in a post by Jennifer Pitt:
“This week, the Colorado River will be reunited with the sea – a destination it hasn’t seen in many years – thanks to the ‘pulse flow.’ Scientists monitoring the flow expect the two waters to meet sometime today [May 15], during high tide, but it’s actually possible that the river reached the sea last week, as we learned from a handful of adventurers who rode their stand-up paddle boards to the tidal interface.”
“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has issued its decision on the federal case challenging environmental review performed under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air Act for the Colorado River Water Delivery Agreement which is also referred to as the ‘Federal Quantification Settlement Agreement.’”