It’s apparently Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan week! Documents here. This is when we all gather around and try to make sense of the sweeping effort to ratchet up efforts to reduce Colorado River water use to keep the system from crashing.
Our visit to CAP Headquarters served as a capstone for a unit of learning around water. These students came to CAP a day after presenting their learning to our school community in the form of the 2018 Youth Water Unconference on our campus in downtown Tucson. Attending our conference were students, family members and water professionals from Tucson Water, the Community Water Coalition and Project WET, among others. Now we sit observing water policy discussions at the highest level in the State of Arizona.
After years of stop-and-go talks, California and two other states that take water from the lower Colorado River are nearing an agreement on how to share delivery cuts if a formal shortage is declared on the drought-plagued waterway. Under the proposed pact, California — the river’s largest user — would reduce diversions earlier in a shortage than it would if the lower-basin states strictly adhered to a water-rights pecking order.
The Bureau of Reclamation and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California today [Oct. 9] issued a Draft Environmental Assessment/Initial Study-Negative Declaration for a proposed 635-acre conservation area to be created as part of the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program. The Draft EA/IS-ND, released for public review and comment, details Metropolitan’s proposed granting of an easement for conservation purposes to Reclamation for the establishment of a conservation area on land owned by Metropolitan.
Seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the overtaxed Colorado River have reached landmark agreements on how to manage the waterway amid an unprecedented drought, including a commitment by California to bear part of the burden before it is legally required to do so, officials said Tuesday. The agreements are tentative and must be approved by multiple states and agencies as well as the U.S. government.
I [Jenn Shapland] spoke with [Rebecca] Solnit and one of her collaborators, photographer Mark Klett, about their recent book, Drowned River: The Death and Rebirth of Glen Canyon on the Colorado (Radius Books), which uses photography and essay to document the current semi-underwater state of Glen Canyon and its precarious future.
In 2007, years into a record-breaking drought throughout the southwestern U.S., officials along the Colorado River finally came to an agreement on how they’d deal with future water shortages — and then quietly hoped that wet weather would return. But it didn’t.
The temperature is hovering right around 90 degrees the day Dale Ryden and I [Luke Runyon] float down the Colorado River near Grand Junction, Colorado. The water looks so inviting, a cool reprieve from the heat, but if either of us jumped in we’d be electrocuted. “It can actually probably be lethal to people if you get in there,” Ryden, a fish biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says.
The phrase “climate change” did not appear on the agenda of a recent three-day meeting of the Colorado Water Congress, but the topic was often front and center at the conference, as it increasingly is at water meetings around the state and the region. Amy Haas, the new executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, told the Water Congress audience of about 300 water managers, irrigators, engineers and lawyers that “hydrology is changing more rapidly than we once thought” and that “it is primarily due to climate change.”
Snowmelt is shrinking and runoff is coming earlier on the Upper Colorado River, the source of 90 percent of water for 40 million people in the West. This is leading to vegetation changes, water quality issues and other concerns. But it may be possible to operate reservoirs differently to ease some of these effects. In September’s episode of Deeply Talks, we spoke with two experts about the consequences and opportunities of these changes on the river.
Colorado water managers are saying good riddance to water year 2018. It enters the history books alongside 2002 and 1977 as one of the driest on record for the Upper Colorado River Basin. According to preliminary numbers from the Bureau of Reclamation, water year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, had the third-lowest unregulated inflow into Lake Powell at 4.62 million acre-feet. That’s just 43 percent of average.
Another rare Colorado River fish has been pulled back from the brink of extinction, the second comeback this year for a species unique to the Southwestern U.S. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to announce Thursday that it will recommend reclassifying the ancient and odd-looking razorback sucker from endangered to threatened, meaning it is still at risk of extinction, but the danger is no longer immediate.
The 20-year ban was meant to slow a flurry of mining claims over concern that the Colorado River — a major water source serving 30 million people — could become contaminated and to allow for scientific studies.
Like so many rivers, the Colorado is closely linked to groundwater. A US Geological Survey study found that more than half of the streamflow in the upper Colorado Basin originates as groundwater. We talked to Doug Kenney—director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network―about managing groundwater in the basin.
With reservoir levels falling along the Colorado River, Arizona’s top water officials say they are making progress in talks toward a set of agreements for cities, farmers and tribes to share in water cutbacks and join in a larger proposed deal to prevent Lake Mead from dropping even further.
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.