Serving as the “lifeline of the
Southwest,” and one of the most heavily regulated rivers in the
world, the Colorado River provides water to 35 million people and
more than 4 million acres of farmland in a region encompassing
some 246,000 square miles.
From its headwaters northwest of Denver in the Rocky Mountains,
the 1,450-mile long river and its tributaries pass through parts
of seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico,
Nevada, Utah and Wyoming and is also used by the
Republic of Mexico. Along the way, almost every drop of the
Colorado River is allocated for use.
The Colorado River Basin is also home to a range of habitats and
ecosystems from mountain to desert to ocean.
More than 30 states actively regulate oil and gas development
with a variety of practices and rules designed to reduce
health, safety and environmental impacts. …
Colorado approved new, nation-leading well integrity rules
designed to prevent oil and gas wells from leaking methane to
the atmosphere, befouling groundwater resources and causing
explosions that can harm workers and communities.
Record-breaking wildfires in 2020 turned huge swaths of Western
forests into barren burn scars. Those forests store winter
snowpack that millions of people rely on for drinking and
irrigation water. But with such large and wide-reaching fires,
the science on the short-term and long-term effects to the
region’s water supplies isn’t well understood.
Federal officials entrusted with managing millions of acres of
forest in Colorado and surrounding states say they’re facing
accelerated decline driven by climate warming, insect
infestation, megafires and surging human incursions. They’ve
been struggling for years to restore resilience and ecological
balance to western forests. But they’re falling further behind
on key tasks…
The dry 2020 and the lack of snow this season has water
managers in seven states preparing for the first time for
cutbacks outlined in drought contingency plans drafted two
years ago. A sobering forecast released this week by the
Bureau of Reclamation shows the federally owned Lake Mead and
Lake Powell — the nation’s two largest reservoirs and critical
storage for Colorado River water and its 40 million users —
dipping near-record-low levels.
Tanya Trujillo, who was appointed to the New Mexico Interstate
Stream Commission in July 2019, has joined the Biden
administration’s Interior Department. The water lawyer and
native New Mexican will serve as the principal deputy assistant
secretary for water and science. The position oversees the work
of the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates
that around 13 million Americans are living within a 100-year
flood zone. But over the last few years, researchers have found
that the government’s estimates are far lower than the ground
realities…. In a study published in the
journal Land Use Policy, researchers estimated that by 2050,
the number of houses in high-risk wildfire zones might increase
by nearly one million in California alone.
There are many ways to gauge the severity of a drought. This
winter in Colorado, all you have to do is look around. “The
stream flows across the state have been really, really, really
down throughout the whole fall season, so that is an
indicator,” said Karl Wetlaufer. Wetlaufer is a rafter, so he
pays attention to stream flow. It’s also part of his job as a
hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation
Service Snow Survey Program.
Rivers may seem like immutable features of the landscape but
they are in fact changing color over time …The overall
significance of the changes are unclear and could reflect
various ways in which humans are impacting the environment,
said lead author John Gardner, an assistant professor of
geology and environmental science at the University of
Pittsburgh. One stark example from the study of rapid color
change is Lake Mead along the Colorado River.
A Fort Collins man is pressing forward with a proposed
325-mile-long pipeline which would transfer water from
northeastern Utah into the northern part of Colorado’s Front
Range. It could cost Aaron Million a billion and a half
dollars to build. He claims to have sufficient support from
private investors to make his pipeline dream a reality.
Increasingly bleak forecasts for the Colorado River have for
the first time put into action elements of the 2019 upper basin
drought contingency plan. The 24-month study released in
January by the Bureau of Reclamation, which projects two years
of operations at the river’s biggest reservoirs, showed Lake
Powell possibly dipping below an elevation of 3,525 feet above
sea level in 2022. That elevation was designated as a critical
threshold in the agreement to preserve the ability to produce
hydropower at Glen Canyon Dam.
Kevin Kelley, the elegant, whip-smart and fierce former general
manager of the Imperial Irrigation District, who fought to
preserve the Salton Sea and his rural county’s water
rights, died Tuesday at 61. He passed away at home, said his
brother, Ryan Kelley, an Imperial County Supervisor. The cause
of death is still being determined. As top executive from
2011 to January 2019 of the powerful but often
overlooked IID, Kelley regularly took on state, federal
and urban water officials to remind them of the valley’s
The Colorado River District’s Board of Directors finalized a
new program that will fund Western Slope water projects and
approved funding for the program’s first-ever project. The
Partnership Project Funding Program will fund multi-purpose
water projects on the Western Slope in five project categories:
productive agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers,
watershed health and water quality, and conservation and
Tanya Trujillo, an expert on water law and the Colorado River
Basin [and formerly the executive director of the Colorado
River Board of California], is President Joe Biden’s choice to
serve in the Interior Department’s top water and science
position. If confirmed by the Senate, Trujillo, currently the
Lower Basin project director for the Colorado River
Sustainability Campaign, will serve as principal deputy
assistant secretary for water and science, overseeing the
Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Colorado River Water Conservation District at a board
meeting Tuesday voted to give $1 million of their
taxpayer-raised funds to help construct the Colorado River
Connectivity Channel, which will improve deteriorated
conditions at the headwaters of the Colorado River. … If
built, the channel would mitigate much of the damage to the
Colorado and Fraser rivers that has been caused by the Windy
Gap reservoir in Grand County.
Sensational headlines, like those speculating that Wall Street
will make billions off the Colorado River or that West Slope
farmers should pack it in now, certainly attracts readers.
Unfortunately, these articles wholly fail to convey the reality
of the water challenges facing the Colorado River Basin. …
The Colorado River is certainly in bad shape. Last year was
marked by extremely hot temperatures, low flows and massive
Written by Dan Keppen, executive director of Family
Farm Alliance; Scott Yates, director of Trout Unlimited’s
Western Water & Habitat Program; and Taylor
Hawes, Colorado River Program director for The Nature
Wind rustles the barbed fence surrounding Canyon Mine as
Amber Reimondo patrols its perimeter. For the last four years
under the Trump administration, Reimondo, the energy
director for the Grand Canyon Trust, has worked
to make the temporary Obama-era uranium mining
ban around the Grand Canyon permanent. So far, her efforts have
not paid off. But with an impending change
in presidents, Reimondo hopes change is in the
Six years after the application was filed, a judge has granted
a water conservancy district in northwest Colorado a water
right for a new dam-and-reservoir project that top state
engineers had opposed. Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District
now has a 66,720 acre-foot conditional water right to build a
dam and reservoir between Rangely and Meeker, known as the
White River storage project or the Wolf Creek project. The
conservancy district is proposing an off-channel reservoir with
a dam 110 feet tall and 3,800 feet long, with water that will
be pumped from the White River.
Lorelei Cloud is a member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, a
relatively small tribe of 1,500 members, 1,000 of which live on
the tribe’s reservation covering a little more than 1,000
square miles south of Durango abutting the border with New
Mexico. Cloud’s experience is not uncommon in tribal homes
across the country, as nearly 48% of them — representing more
than half a million people — do not have “access to reliable
water sources, clean drinking water or basic sanitation,”
according to a 2017 congressional report.
The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the American West, but
the viability of the massive river basin is being threatened by
climate change. To plan future water use in the region — which
includes Arizona — the Central Arizona Project is teaming up
with NASA and Arizona State University, to evaluate how climate
and land-use changes will affect patterns of hydrology. Using
state-of-the-art satellite imaging, scientists will measure and
evaluate how water flows throughout the basin.
Colorado is headwaters to a hardworking river that provides for
40 million people. The importance of the Colorado River to the
state and the nation cannot be overstated, and its recent
hydrology serves as a reminder that we must continue to find
workable solutions that will sustain the river. History shows
that we are up to the challenge. … Colorado and the other
Basin states face big challenges. Drier hydrology, competing
demands on the river, and those who seek to profit from such
circumstances, impact the types of tools available to address
these challenges. Written by Rebecca Mitchell, who serves as the state of
Colorado’s Colorado River Commissioner as well as director of
the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Arizona depends heavily on the Colorado River, and it is
over-allocated, meaning, we collectively take more water from
the system than nature puts in. To make matters worse, the
Colorado River basin has been experiencing a prolonged drought
of more than 20 years. When you take the longer term view,
a lot of communities in Arizona are heavily dependent on fossil
groundwater supplies. Once you pump them out, they’re gone
forever. There are real problems looming when it comes to
groundwater management and the Colorado River.
The Southwest U.S. is mired in an ever-worsening drought, one
that has left deer starving in Hawaii, turned parts of the Rio
Grande into a wading pool, and set a record in Colorado for the
most days of “exceptional drought.” Why it matters: These
conditions may be the new normal rather than an exception,
water experts say, as climate change runs its course. And
worsening drought will intensify political and legal battles
over water — with dire consequences for poor communities.
The building of dams on the Colorado River has forever changed
the ebb and flow, flooding, drying and renewal cycle of what
was once Lake Cahuilla, changing its character and changing its
name to the Salton Sea. Entrepreneurs once thought that the
Salton Sea would become a sportsman’s mecca, providing fishing,
boating, and waterskiing experiences like no other. There were
a few decades where that dream seemed to be true. Then it
Colorado is headwaters to a hardworking river that provides for
40 million people. The importance of the Colorado River to the
state and the nation cannot be overstated, and its recent
hydrology serves as a reminder that we must continue to find
workable solutions that will sustain the river. History shows
that we are up to the challenge. As Colorado’s commissioner and
lead negotiator on Colorado River issues, it is my job to
protect Colorado’s interests in the river. -Written by Rebecca Mitchell, Colorado’s current Colorado
River Commissioner and director of the Colorado Water
Construction began this week on a 4,110-acre wetlands project
on the Salton Sea’s playa near the mouth of the highly polluted
New River, the California Department of Natural Resources
announced Wednesday. Called the Species Conservation Habitat
Project, the $206.5 million plan will build ponds and wetlands
along the small delta to provide wildlife habitat and suppress
dust. The final design includes 340 additional acres of
coverage as compared to older projections, and work led by
Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. is expected to be finished by
If there’s a dominant force in the Colorado River Basin these
days, it’s the Walton Family Foundation, flush with close to $5
billion to give away. Run by the heirs of Walmart founder Sam
Walton, the foundation donates $25 million a year to nonprofits
concerned about the Colorado River. It’s clear the foundation
cares deeply about the river in this time of excruciating
drought, and some of its money goes to river restoration or
more efficient irrigation. Yet its main interest is promoting
“demand management,” the water marketing scheme that seeks to
add 500,000 acre-feet of water to declining Lake Powell by
paying rural farmers to temporarily stop irrigating.
I came to the Salton Sea as part of the research for a new book
about the ecology and psychology of abandoned places, an
investigation into how nature can adapt and recover in the long
shadow cast by human activities. It had taken me to some
of the world’s most eerie, ravaged and polluted sites — from
the disaster zones of Chernobyl and Montserrat, to former
frontlines in Cyprus and Verdun, Detroit’s blighted
neighbourhoods and a Scottish island whose last residents left
in 1974. The Salton Sea — its seaside resorts left
landlocked by shrinking waters, its boats rotting in the bowls
of dry marinas — felt a fitting final destination.
A valve at the base of the Loveland Dam near Alpine was opened
Monday, allowing billions of gallons of water to thunder down
the valley toward Sweetwater Reservoir in Spring Valley. “It’s
a spectacle that is hard to forget,” said Hector Martinez,
Chairman of the Sweetwater Authority “Very powerful! I almost
feel the ground shaking when the water is being released.” The
gushing valve is a sight to behold, and thanks to the massive
transfer, South Bay water customers might be looking at their
water bills with similar amazement.
Colorado is no stranger to drought. The current one is closing
in on 20 years, and a rainy or snowy season here and there
won’t change the trajectory. This is what climate change has
brought. “Aridification” is what Bradley Udall formally calls
the situation in the western U.S. But perhaps more accurately,
he calls it hot drought – heat-induced lack of water due to
The convergence of a multi-decadal, climate-fueled
drought, a trillion-dollar river-dependent economy, and a
region with growth aspirations that rival any place in the
country has peaked speculative interest in owning and profiting
from Colorado River water.
Utah officials want to build a 140-mile-long pipeline to bring
precious Colorado River water west to the thriving town of St.
George, in the state’s far southwestern corner. In an era of
perennial drought, when the future of the Colorado River
watershed, the lifeline of the U.S. Southwest, is the subject
of fierce debate in state capitols across the region, the idea
of bringing more than 26 billion gallons of water a year to a
community of fewer than 200,000 people on the edge of the
Mojave Desert strikes many as folly. To officials in Washington
County, of which St. George is the county seat, though, it is a
critical resource for the future.
It may be a new year, but Colorado’s statewide drought will be
baggage it carries well into 2021. More than a quarter of the
state is in the worst level of drought, and with snowpack
significantly below what’s expected this time of year —
especially on the Western Slope — scientists are warning that
it will take more than just a big snowstorm to alleviate this
After three decades of water wars in Southern California,
policy experts hope a new era in collaborative management will
offer inspiration for the ongoing and complex negotiations over
Colorado River allocations amid a historic and deepening
drought. “Those lessons need to catapult us forward,” said
Patricia Mulroy, former head of the Southern Nevada Water
Authority, during the fall meeting for the Association of
California Water Agencies in December. “These states, these
constituencies, these communities cannot afford for these
discussions to crater. Failure is not an option.”
The old axiom goes, “Whiskey’s for drinkin’ and water’s for
fightin’” — it reflects the never-ending horse-trading that
involves distribution of water in the arid Southwest and the
tug of war between the region’s agricultural communities and
the ever-growing urban centers, including Las Vegas, Phoenix
and areas of Southern California. Traditionally, water rights
have been brokered by state and local governments, as well as
regional water districts. This is changing, though, as private
equity firms have been purchasing water rights in localities
along the Colorado River, from the Western Rockies through the
valleys of Southern California.
Now that the calendar has flipped to January 2021, it’s time to
say goodbye to the mess of the past year, yes? … The
pandemic’s economic dislocation continues to reverberate among
those who lost work. Severe weather boosted by a warming
climate is leaving its mark in the watersheds of the Southwest
[including the Colorado River]. And President-elect Biden will
take office looking to undo much of his predecessor’s legacy of
environmental deregulation while also writing his own narrative
on issues of climate, infrastructure, and social
justice….Litigation over toxic PFAS compounds found in
rivers, lakes, and groundwater is already active. Lawsuits are
likely to continue at a brisk pace…
The new Biden administration could take action on the Colorado
River that would go well beyond the president-elect’s term in
office. The week of Dec. 14, the seven states that are part of
the Colorado River Compact began the first step for
renegotiating guidelines that will decide how much water the
three lower basin states and Mexico will get from Lake Mead, on
the Arizona-Nevada border, and from Mead’s source, the Colorado
There is a myth about water in the Western United States, which
is that there is not enough of it. But those who deal closely
with water will tell you this is false. There is plenty. It is
just in the wrong places…Transferring water from agricultural
communities to cities, though often contentious, is not a new
practice. Much of the West, including Los Angeles and Las
Vegas, was made by moving water. What is new is for private
investors — in this case an investment fund in Phoenix, with
owners on the East Coast — to exert that power.
Wayne Pullan has been named regional director of the Upper
Colorado Basin Region. Pullan, who has more than 25 years of
Reclamation experience, leads 800 Reclamation
professionals who manage 82 projects and dams, including 19
hydroelectric powerplants. Those facilities provide water to
approximately 5.7 million people living in the region and
electricity for almost 6 million power users.
The ability of science to improve water management decisions
and keep up with the accelerating pace of climate change. The
impact to precious water resources from persistent drought
in the Colorado River Basin. Building resilience and
sustainability across California. And finding hope at the
Salton Sea. These were among the issues Western Water explored
in 2020. In case you missed them, they are still worth taking a
A set of guidelines for managing the Colorado River helped
several states through a dry spell, but it’s not enough to keep
key reservoirs in the American West from plummeting amid
persistent drought and climate change, according to a U.S.
report released Friday.
All signs are pointing to a dry start to 2021 across much of
the Colorado River watershed, which provides water to about 40
million people in the Western U.S. A lack of precipitation from
April to October made this spring, summer and fall one of the
region’s driest six-month periods on record. And with a dry
start to winter, river forecasters feel more pessimistic about
the chances for a drought recovery in the early part of 2021.
New scientific literature is providing insights into the
origins of the Colorado River, using data from ancient
sedimentary deposits located east of the San Andreas fault near
the Salton Sea in Southern California. The papers present
evidence that the now desert landscape of the river’s lower
valley was submerged roughly 5 million to 6 million years ago
under shallow seas with strong, fluctuating tidal
currents that flowed back and forth along the trajectory of the
Last week’s storm did little to ease the drought in Arizona’s
reservoirs. But there’s still plenty of winter left. The Bureau
of Reclamation makes two-year projections, based on weather and
water levels in Colorado River reservoirs, and its most recent
projections have been dire. That could set the stage for an
Arizona water shortage in 2022. Snowpack in the mountains is
now 69% of normal. The water level at Lake Mead is about
The Hopi have long lacked adequate drinking water. In
parts of the reservation, the water that flows from
taps is contaminated with toxic arsenic
at levels that exceed the federal standard. And
in homes without running water, many families get by using what
little they haul from communal faucets, which can amount to
less than 2 gallons a day per person.
The drought’s getting worse and the reservoirs are drying up.
Best get used to it, say a growing number of climate prediction
models. The whole of the southwest remains in the grip of a
severe drought. In Arizona, that means a failed monsoon season
followed by a so-far dry fall. Much of Arizona set records on
both fronts this year. The predicted storms this week did
little to cushion the blow of a bone-dry year, with water
experts predicting more water rationing next year together with
a dangerous fire season.
Many in Utah think of Las Vegas as a colony of water waste.
Fountains, swimming pools, golf courses and lawns come to mind.
While those things exist, they are not as widespread as they
once were – nor as profligate. Today, Southern Nevada, with a
small share of the Colorado River and limited
groundwater, is an emblem of responsible water use.
Southern Utah is not. But it doesn’t have to be that way. -Written by Kyle Roerink, executive director of the
Great Basin Water Network.
The entire Colorado River Basin within Colorado is experiencing
“extreme” or “exceptional” drought, according to the U.S.
Drought Monitor. The next few months are predicted to be
warmer and drier than normal, which will further reduce
snowpack runoff into our reservoirs even with a normal snowpack
this winter. Unfortunately, 2020 is not an anomaly; rather, it
is a harbinger of a future to which we must adapt.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes near Parker is proposing a
federal law to allow it to lease water rights in Arizona, a
move that could aid the state’s response to the drought. The
tribe said in public hearings on Dec. 7 and Dec. 10 that it
would use the money raised from leasing Colorado River water to
bolster services to its members, including for health care,
education, elder programs and law enforcement.
A highly effective but problematic Colorado River desalination
project in western Montrose County’s Paradox Valley could come
to an end due to the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s difficulty
finding an acceptable means of continuing it.
California has really demonstrated that it needs less Colorado
River water. It’s taken a while, but it has been a really
successful adaptation. And that is my point (or are my points).
For Colorado to spend more money that we do not have in order
to pay farmers to take crop land out of production, thereby
degrading the economy of the ag sector in our state, is an
exercise in utter foolishness.
The state of Colorado has activated the municipal portion of
its emergency drought plan for only the second time in history
as several cities say they need to prepare for what is almost
certainly going to be a dangerously dry 2021.
In a bold step toward a new kind of collaboration in the
Colorado River Basin, the Metropolitan Water District of
Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority are
partnering to explore development of a drought-proof water
supply that could reduce reliance on the over-stressed river.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes are proposing federal
legislation that would allow CRIT to lease a portion of its
first priority Colorado River water rights in Arizona to
outside interests within the state. The Tribe says the
legislation would help drought relief efforts in Arizona while
presenting economic opportunities for tribal members.
The year 2020 will be remembered for so many things when we’re
taking a look back at history several years from now…. A
massive drought developed over much of the western United
States during 2020. The dry conditions fueled historic
wildfires, many of which set new all-time records for size in
states including Colorado and California.
Sixty years after its creation, Lake Powell faces an uncertain
future due to increasing drought and decreased water
runoff. Science Moab spoke with Utah State professor Jack
Schmidt and Eric Kuhn, former general manager for the
Colorado River District, about the policies and politics
of Colorado River reservoirs, including the role of Lake Powell
and its future in the face of changing climate and politics.
For many years, leasing water has simply been a “what if”
scenario for the Colorado River Indian Tribes, which unlike
many other tribes in Arizona with water rights, do not
have the ability to lease, exchange or store it underground.
But that could soon change if their proposal makes its way
through Congress. And it could have profound impacts on
how water is bought, sold and moved in this state. -Written by Joanna Allhands, digital opinions editor for
the Arizona Republic.
The federal role in restoring the Salton Sea is limited to a
handful of projects that address issues on lands in and around
the sea that are managed by federal agencies, including the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau
of Land Management, and Department of Defense. Unlike in areas
such as Lake Tahoe, the Everglades, and the Chesapeake Bay, the
federal government does not have a comprehensive program to
restore the Salton Sea.
Water conservation isn’t cheap. But it’s not as pricey as
300-mile pipelines and water grabs. Last week, the Southern
Nevada Water Authority’s board passed its 2020 Water Resource
Plan — a blueprint detailing the water purveyor’s estimates for
supply and demand in a world with a declining Colorado River,
spiking temperatures and increasing populations. -Written by Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great
Basin Water Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to
protecting water resources in the nation’s driest places.
As the Colorado River winds its way through several different
regions, the policies regulating it are complex, but without
close management and monitoring, demands on this water source
could outweigh its supply by 2060. To address these
concerns, Riley Swanson, a recent master’s graduate of
geology led a study titled, “Quantifying the base
flow of the Colorado River: its importance in sustaining
perennial flow in northern Arizona and southern Utah (USA).”
Record and near-record low flows on the Upper Colorado River
this summer and fall have dramatically and abruptly worsened
the outlook for the entire river and the Central Arizona
Project over the next two years.
Climate change and overuse are causing one of the Colorado
River’s biggest reservoirs, Lake Powell, to drop. While water
managers worry about scarcity issues, two Utah river rafters
are documenting the changes that come as the massive reservoir
hits historic low points.
Things got a little wild at the San Diego County Water
Authority meeting last week when its 36 directors argued over
whether they should spend more money studying a controversial
$5 billion pipeline to the Colorado River. Outrage after
leaders apparently skipped over female directors waiting to add
comments during a discussion period sparked some to change
their vote on the matter.
It was daybreak and Barron Tsinigine had been fishing for
rainbow trout, until he found out he could earn $25 for landing
a brown trout. That’s when his plan changed. … Tsinigine was
one of the first anglers to participate in Arizona’s
incentivized harvest of brown trout … in hopes of keeping the
predacious trout from moving downstream and endangering native
fish, like the humpback chub.
Twenty years ago, the Colorado River’s hydrology began tumbling
into a historically bad stretch. … So key players across
seven states, including California, came together in 2005 to
attack the problem. The result was a set of Interim Guidelines
adopted in 2007… Stressing flexibility instead of rigidity,
the guidelines stabilized water deliveries in a
drought-stressed system and prevented a dreaded shortage
declaration by the federal government that would have forced
water supply cuts.
Twenty years ago, the Colorado River
Basin’s hydrology began tumbling into a historically bad stretch.
The weather turned persistently dry. Water levels in the system’s
anchor reservoirs of Lake Powell and Lake Mead plummeted. A river
system relied upon by nearly 40 million people, farms and
ecosystems across the West was in trouble. And there was no guide
on how to respond.
The incoming Biden administration will lead efforts to craft a
new water-management regime for the seven-state Colorado River
Basin, and people involved in the process expect any changes to
reflect the impact of climate change in the basin.
The lower Colorado River Basin, which is primarily in Arizona,
is projected to have as much as sixteen percent less
groundwater infiltration by midcentury compared to the
historical record. That’s because warming temperatures will
increase evaporation while rain- and snowfall are expected to
remain the same or decrease slightly.
For a city built in an arid desert basin in Nevada, the USA’s
driest state with around 10 inches of rainfall a year, this
doesn’t sound too surprising. But the climate emergency and
recent droughts have changed the complexion and urgency of the
The U.S. Geological Survey is in the beginning stages of
learning more about this river via an expanded and more
sophisticated monitoring system that aims to study details
about the snowpack that feeds the river basin, droughts and
flooding, and how streamflow supports groundwater, or vice
Opposition is building against San Diego’s dream of erecting a
$5 billion pipeline to the Colorado River in the name of
resource independence. The pipe, which wouldn’t produce savings
for ratepayers until at least 2063, faces its next trial on
Thursday, when water managers meet to vote on spending another
$1.7 million to do the next planning step.
As the Colorado River District looks to quickly put newly
approved tax revenues to work on Western Slope projects, an
implementation plan offers some examples of the kind of work it
expects to pursue… The district plans to use 14 percent of
the new revenues to shore up its finances… The rest is to be
used to partner with others on projects focused on agriculture,
infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water
quality, and conservation and efficiency.
Intersecting events such as major floods, decades-long
megadroughts, and economic or governance upheavals could have
catastrophic effects on the water supply for the 40 million
people who live in the southwestern United States and
Tanya’s a New Mexican, former chief counsel to the New Mexico
Interstate Stream Commission, and current member of the
commission. She served as a legislative aide to New Mexico Sen.
Jeff Bingaman, in Interior in the Officer of Water and Science,
and as executive director of the Colorado River Board of
Proposals to divert water in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah have
run up against significant legal, financial and political
roadblocks this year. But while environmental groups have
cheered the setbacks, it’s still unclear whether these projects
have truly hit dead ends or are simply waiting in the wings.
There’s a concept called “demand management” in the news in
Colorado, and here’s a simple definition: Landowners get paid
to temporarily stop irrigating, and that water gets sent
downstream to hang out in Lake Powell. It’s an idea long talked
about because of increasing drought and the very real danger of
both Lake Mead and Lake Powell dropping into “dead pool” where
no hydropower can be generated.
A 2007 deal creating guidelines governing how Lake Powell and
Lake Mead are operated in coordination isn’t scheduled to
expire until 2026. But water officials in Colorado River Basin
states are already beginning to talk about the renegotiations
that will be undertaken to decide what succeeds the 2007
In autumn swarms of flying insects cloud the skies on the lower
Colorado River near Bullhead City, Ariz. Caddisflies are a
nuisance to recreationists who want to boat, swim or fish on
the river. So city officials have started an unprecedented
experiment to get rid of them.
Managing water resources in the Colorado River Basin is not for
the timid or those unaccustomed to big challenges. … For more
than 30 years, Terry Fulp, director of the Bureau of
Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin Region, has been in the
thick of it, applying his knowledge, expertise and calm
demeanor to inform and broker key decisions that have helped
stabilize the Southwest’s major water artery.
Managing water resources in the Colorado River Basin is not for the timid or those unaccustomed to big challenges. Careers are devoted to responding to all the demands put upon the river: water supply, hydropower, recreation and environmental protection.
All of this while the Basin endures a seemingly endless drought and forecasts of increasing dryness in the future.
G. Patrick O’Dowd, well versed in Salton Sea Authority
leadership from past service as a Director on the SSA Board
representing Coachella Valley Water District, will take the
helm as Phil Rosentrater retires from the post where he has
served since 2015. The Salton Sea Authority is a joint powers
authority formed in 1993 to empower local entities to work in
cooperation to revitalize the Salton Sea.
Climate change, as I’ve often heard Brad Udall point out, is
water change. By that, Brad means that the effect of a changing
climate on people and ecosystems is most clearly felt through
changes in how much water there is.
The tumultuous, years-long legal fight between farmer Michael
Abatti and the Imperial Irrigation District — two of Southern
California’s powerbrokers — is now finished. On Wednesday, the
California Supreme Court declined Abatti’s petition for review,
leaving in place an appellate court’s decision that declared
IID the rightful owner of a massive allotment of Colorado River
Yoshimitsu Chikamoto, a climate scientist at Utah State
University, used dynamic climate modeling to try to predict
water supply in the Colorado River. They found ocean surface
temperatures have a larger impact on predicting drought than
atmospheric processes like precipitation. … Chikamoto said
oceans provide a long-term memory that can be used to forecast
For weeks, a water dispute between the Mexican government and
Mexican farmers and between the United States and Mexico was
brewing and escalating. October 24 was the deadline by which
Mexico was supposed to have provided the United States with all
of the water from the Rio Grande it owes the United States
every five years. But this year’s expected water delivery set
off months-long protests…
As the Colorado River Basin’s managers wrestle with thorny
questions around the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, a colleague
who works for a Lower Colorado River Basin water agency
recently asked a question that goes to the heart of the future
of river management: With land in the Lower Colorado River
Basin, why doesn’t Utah have a Lower Basin allocation?
In 2011, heavy snows in the Rocky Mountains filled the Colorado
River, lifting reservoirs—and spirits—in the drought-stricken
U.S. Southwest. The following year, however, water levels
dropped to nearly their lowest in a century… Now, scientists
say they may have come up with a potential early warning system
for the Colorado’s water levels—by watching temperature
patterns in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, thousands of
Water utilities increasingly face a dilemma in these
recessionary times: the challenge is to take in enough money to
operate and maintain complex water systems while also providing
safe and affordable water to all their customers—even those who
have trouble paying. We talked to Kathryn Sorensen of Phoenix
Water Services about Phoenix’s equity innovations.
If certain hay species retain more nutrients than others when
on low-water diets, then ranchers know their cattle will
continue to eat well as they evaluate whether they can operate
their ranches on less H20…. Any water saved could be left in
the Colorado River, allowing it to become more sustainable,
even as the West’s population grows and drought becomes more
A new experiment is looking into how drought conditions, like
we’re currently in, can affect water traveling downstream in
the Colorado River. The pilot project involved shepherding
water from a high mountain reservoir to the Colorado-Utah state
A team of scientists at Utah State University has developed a
new tool to forecast drought and water flow in the Colorado
River several years in advance. Although the river’s headwaters
are in landlocked Wyoming and Colorado, water levels are linked
to sea surface temperatures in parts of the Pacific and
Atlantic oceans and the water’s long-term ocean memory.
Despite that reduction in flow, total storage behind Glen
Canyon and Hoover dams has dropped only 2.6 million acre feet.
That is far less than you’d expect from 12 years of 1.2 maf per
year flow reductions alone. That kind of a flow reduction
should have been enough to nearly empty the reservoirs. Why
hasn’t that happened? Because we also have been using less
As Arizonans contemplate how to cast their votes on Nov. 3, the
issue of water should be part of the decision. In Arizona we
are in a climate-driven, 20-year drought with no relief in
sight. The aridification of the West coupled with record
temperatures and lack of monsoon this summer should make all of
us aware of the importance of water.
San Diego County Water Authority is looking into the
possibility of building a pipeline (aqueduct, more accurately)
to get its water directly from the Imperial Valley instead of
indirectly through the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) in Los
Angeles. SDCWA and MWD have a history of litigation about how
much MWD can charge for transporting water from Lake Havasu
through MWD’s Colorado River Aqueduct to reservoirs in northern
San Diego County.
The recent downgrade in the forecast for the flow of water in
the Colorado River should be a death punch to the proposal to
build a new pipeline out of Lake Powell. The pipeline was
already a major threat to Las Vegas and much of the rest of the
Southwest; now the threat risk is heading off the charts.
Three Coachella Valley high schoolers kayaked across the Salton
Sea Saturday to raise awareness about the social and ecological
crisis unfolding as California’s largest lake continues to
shrink and toxic dust from its shores pollutes the air.
Regional water conservation groups and a Clark County
commissioner welcomed a request by Utah officials Thursday to
extend the federal environmental review of a controversial plan
to divert billions of gallons of water from the Colorado River
to southwest Utah.
In a congressional hearing Thursday that starkly illuminated
partisan divides, California Democrats called on the federal
government to provide greater assistance in remedying
environmental and public health crises at the Salton Sea. All
but one GOP members were absent, and the one who did attend
criticized the organizers for holding the hearing.
In Utah, there is a significant effort underway to build a
water delivery pipeline from Lake Powell to transport part of
Utah’s Colorado River entitlement to Utah’s St. George area. As
the federal environmental review for the proposed Lake Powell
Pipeline in Utah continues, Utah’s six fellow Colorado River
Basin states weighed in as a group, cautioning that unresolved
At the September meeting of Metropolitan’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Laura Lamdin, an associate engineer in
water resource management, gave a presentation on how the
United States and Mexico built a collaborative relationship,
the many accomplishments that have come as a result, and a look
at the work currently in progress.
A new documentary — “Miracle in the Desert: The Rise and Fall
of the Salton Sea” — takes a crack at the growing public health
issue, drawing on archival footage to tell the tale of a lake
that was largely forgotten by the government even before its
shorelines began receding.
We analysed data reported by the Bureau of Reclamation and the
U. S. Geological Survey that describe the primary inflows to
Lake Powell and the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and
Lake Mead, as well as the losses from both reservoir and the
releases from Hoover Dam. … The significance of the
uncertainties we identify can be measured by reminding the
reader that the annual consumptive uses by the state of Nevada
cannot exceed 300,000 acre feet/year…
Beginning Wednesday, Front Range water providers will release
water stored in Homestake Reservoir in an effort to test how
they could get water downstream to the state line in the event
of a Colorado River Compact call….A compact call could occur
if the upper basin states (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New
Mexico) can’t deliver the 7.5 million acre-feet of water per
year to the lower basin states (Arizona, California and
Nevada), as required by a nearly century-old binding agreement.
Practically every drop of water that flows through the meadows,
canyons and plains of the Colorado River Basin has reams of
science attached to it. Our latest article in Western
Water news examines a new report that synthesizes and
provides context for that science and could aid water managers
as they prepare to rewrite the operating rules for a river
system so vital to the Southwestern United States and Mexico.
A crisis could be approaching. The two giant reservoirs on the
Colorado River are both below 50 percent of capacity. If
drought causes even more drastic drops, the Bureau of
Reclamation could step in to prioritize the making of
electricity by the hydro plants at lakes Mead and Powell. No
one knows what BuRec would do, but it would call the shots and
end current arrangements.
The housing developer and the powerful water utility, locked
into past contracts, are caught in a fight, playing out in
hydrologic reports and hearing rooms, over what might seem a
simple question: How much water is there? That answer is
complicated by how much is at stake — a Colorado River
tributary, the survival of an endangered Nevada fish and the
future of development in a sweeping area outside Las Vegas.
The years-long fight between the Imperial Irrigation District
and farmer Michael Abatti over control of Colorado River water
could be nearing its grand finale in the California Supreme
Court. After Abatti requested last month that the state’s
highest judicial body take up his case, the water district
filed its opposition on Monday.
Following a hot and extremely dry spring and summer, the Bureau
of Reclamation’s latest projections show that in a scenario of
continuing drought between now and 2025, the chances of Lake
Mead falling into a shortage has increased to nearly 80%. The
odds of the reservoir dropping to critically low levels by 2025
under this scenario was estimated at nearly 20%.
Dizzying in its scope, detail and complexity, the scientific
information on the Basin’s climate and hydrology has been
largely scattered in hundreds of studies and reports. Some
studies may conflict with others, or at least appear to. That’s
problematic for a river that’s a lifeline for 40 million people
and more than 4 million acres of irrigated farmland.
Lake Powell isn’t in Southern Nevada. Rather, it’s about four
hours away by car in southern Utah. But some environmentalists
say the water consumption of St. George, Utah, and neighboring
communities could have a direct and deleterious impact on the
Las Vegas water supply.
The cuts are a plan to keep Lake Mead, a reservoir at the
Arizona-Nevada boundary, functional. Water levels have
precipitously dropped as a result of historic overallocation
and a drought that started in 2000. … ASU Now checked in with
Sarah Porter of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at the Morrison
Institute on how these new developments will impact the Copper
State and its residents.
Roughly a thousand acre-feet of water won’t make or break the
Colorado River. But for many who live in counties that border
the river, even losing a few drops of water to central Arizona
poses a major threat to their way of life.
Practically every drop of water that flows through the meadows, canyons and plains of the Colorado River Basin has reams of science attached to it. Snowpack, streamflow and tree ring data all influence the crucial decisions that guide water management of the iconic Western river every day.
Dizzying in its scope, detail and complexity, the scientific information on the Basin’s climate and hydrology has been largely scattered in hundreds of studies and reports. Some studies may conflict with others, or at least appear to. That’s problematic for a river that’s a lifeline for 40 million people and more than 4 million acres of irrigated farmland.
The idea was to lower the flows while temperatures were still
warm enough to dry out the caddis larvae. That required buy-in
from local merchants and the Bureau of Reclamation, local
tribes and others. They were able to do it, and on Aug. 27, the
first of two flow reductions took place. When the river
dropped, people pitched in for a day of river cleanup.
The California Natural Resources Agency announced it will be
hosting a new round of public engagement sessions in September
to get input to assist in the development of wildlife habitat
restoration and dust suppression projects for the Salton Sea
Management Program’s 10-year plan.
Nevada officials raised numerous concerns Tuesday about a
proposed project to pipe large quantities of Colorado River
water roughly 140 miles from Lake Powell to southern Utah…
Six of the seven states that use the Colorado River also sent a
letter to federal water managers Tuesday asking them to refrain
from completing project permitting…
Arizona’s top water regulator has endorsed a company’s proposal
to take water from farmland near the Colorado River and sell it
to the fast-growing Phoenix suburb of Queen Creek. The plan,
which still would require federal approval, has generated a
heated debate about whether transferring water away from the
farming community of Cibola could harm the local economy, and
whether the deal would open the gates for more companies to buy
land near the river with the sole aim of selling off the water
The Colorado River Compact of 1922
divided the river into two basins: The Upper Basin (Colorado, New
Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) and the Lower Basin (Arizona,
California and Nevada), established the allotment for each basin
and provided a framework for management of the river for years to
The California Natural Resources Agency has released a draft
project description for the Salton Sea Management Program Phase
I and announced a series of virtual public workshops for
community input. The project description identifies habitat
restoration and dust suppression projects to revitalize the
environment and protect public health.
San Diego County Water Authority is seriously considering
building a duplicate pipeline through the desert and Cleveland
National Forest to break free from Metropolitan, or Met, which
controls truck-sized pipes and canals from the Colorado River.
It could be the most expensive public works project in San
Diego’s 170-year history…
The Trump administration is seeking to fast track environmental
reviews of dozens of major energy and infrastructure projects
during the COVID-19 pandemic… Projects targeted for quick
review include highway improvements in South Carolina, Georgia,
Florida and other states; the Lake Powell water pipeline in
Utah; wind farms in New Mexico and off the Massachusetts coast;
and mining projects in Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Alaska.
My puzzlement was goosed by a report that surfaced last week at
a board meeting of one of its member agencies suggesting that
the general managers of agencies representing the majority of
the Water Authority’s actual water-using member agencies don’t
seem to want it.
A group of residents in Laughlin, Nev., which sits along the
Colorado River, are organizing a campaign to oppose a pipeline
that would divert billions of gallons of river water to
southwest Utah, reflecting intensifying struggles over water in
the U.S. West.
The written version of remarks delivered by Eric Kuhn at the
Aug. 25 Western Resource Advocates webinar on the Lake Powell
Pipeline, featuring Eric, WRA’s Bart Miller, and Alice Walker,
attorney for the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians.
Above-average temperatures in spring resulted in a paltry 57%
runoff, nowhere near enough water to refill the reservoirs that
remain half-empty. Based on these conditions, the U.S. Bureau
of Reclamation recently determined that 2021 will be a “tier
zero” year under the Lower Colorado River Basin Drought
Contingency Plan, with reduced water deliveries for Arizona,
Nevada, and Mexico.
Attorneys for farmer Michael Abatti on Monday filed a petition
requesting that the California Supreme Court take up a case
against the Imperial Irrigation District, continuing the battle
for control over California’s Colorado River water allotment.
This latest court filing calls on the court to rule that
Imperial Valley farmers have a right to water ownership, which
currently resides with the district.
A friend last week pointed out something remarkable. Arizona,
California, and Nevada are forecast this year to use just 6.8
million acre feet of their 7.5 million acre foot allocation of
water from the main stem of the Colorado River. And that’s not
just a one-off.
A statewide public effort to determine whether Coloradans
should engage in perhaps the biggest water conservation program
in state history — a Lake Powell drought contingency pool —
enters its second year of study this summer.
Colorado officials have called the Grizzly Creek Fire in
Glenwood Canyon a national priority… Even if crews are able
to get enough of a handle on the fire to re-open Interstate 70,
the fire could have a longterm impact on Glenwood Canyon and
communities down the Colorado River, environmental experts
Nevada and Utah share more than borders. We share the coveted
and much-fought-over Colorado River. But it seems as if only
one state — Nevada — is doing the difficult work to protect our
most valuable resource
The latest forecast from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation,
released last week, predicts that by the end of 2020, Lake
Mead, which furnishes Central Arizona Project water, will be at
1,085 feet elevation. While that’s 5 feet lower than the lake
stood at the end of 2019, it’s still 10 feet higher than the
water level that would trigger the first major shortage,
slicing more than 520,000 acre feet of water, roughly one-third
of the state’s total supply.
In many ways, the Grizzly Creek Fire — the largest in the
history of the White River National Forest — is a public works
fire, threatening vital infrastructure for millions of
westerners, all wedged into a tiny sliver of steep canyon that
pretty much prevents on-the-ground firefighting.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released projections Friday that
suggest Lake Powell and Lake Mead will dip 16 feet and 5 feet,
respectively, in January from levels recorded a year earlier.
Despite the dip, Lake Mead would stay above the threshold that
triggers severe water cuts to cities and farms, giving
officials throughout the Southwest more time to prepare for the
future when the flow will slow.
The University of California Desert Research and Extension
Center (UC DREC) was established in 1912 and is the oldest
research and extension center in the UC system. For the past
108 years, UC DREC has conducted innovative and relevant
agricultural, natural resources, and environmental research and
extension in arid desert regions.
As California continues to draw enormous amount of water from
the Colorado River, water utilities in California must begin to
consider the implications that media-driven fear over PFAS will
have on their liability if they continue to utilize water from
the Colorado River as a reserve resource.
Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will again receive less water from
the Colorado River next year under a set of agreements intended
to help boost the level of Lake Mead… The federal Bureau of
Reclamation released projections Friday showing that Lake Mead,
the nation’s largest reservoir, will be at levels next year
that continue to trigger moderate cutbacks in the two U.S.
states and Mexico.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is expected to release
projections Friday that suggest Lake Powell and Lake Mead will
dip slightly in 2021. … Despite the dip, Lake Mead’s levels
are expected to stay above the threshold that triggers
mandatory water cuts to Arizona and Nevada, giving officials
throughout the Southwest more time to prepare for a future when
the flow will slow.
If built, it would … pump groundwater into four new
reservoirs … Tribal members and environmentalists say the
project would flood several miles of canyons sacred to the
Navajo; risk damaging cultural sites for several tribes; draw
vast amounts of critical groundwater; potentially harm habitats
for plants and animals, including some endangered species; and
risk adverse effects for waterways leading into the Grand
This cluster of counties on Colorado’s Western Slope — along
with three counties just across the border in eastern Utah —
has warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius, double the global
average. Spanning more than 30,000 square miles, it is the
largest 2C hot spot in the Lower 48, a Washington Post analysis
found. … The average flow of the Colorado River has declined
nearly 20 percent over the past century, half of which is
because of warming temperatures, scientists say.
Hot and dry conditions pushed portions of Arizona, southern
Nevada and Southern California either into drought or further
into drought, data from the U.S. Drought monitor show. … The
North American Monsoon, which provides about half of the annual
rainfall in parts of the Southwest, has been a “nonsoon” this
year … The portion of California deemed abnormally
dry grew by almost 7%, mainly in eastern San Bernardino
We deserve complete, dependable information and accurate cost
data including well-reasoned analysis that demonstrates the
need and economic viability of the pipeline. Instead, studies
by the Utah Division of Water Resources and the Washington
County Water Conservancy District are biased, incomplete and do
not fairly consider feasible, much less costly alternatives.
A California appellate court on Wednesday denied Imperial
Valley farmer Michael Abatti’s request for a rehearing in his
long-running legal fight with the Imperial Irrigation District
over control of Colorado River water. The decision could likely
spell the end to his legal challenges.
Deep beneath the surface of the Salton Sea, a shallow lake in
California’s Imperial County, sits an immense reserve of
critical metals that, if unlocked, could power the state’s
green economy for years to come. These naturally occurring
metals are dissolved in geothermal brine, a byproduct of
geothermal energy production.
The average annual flow of the Colorado River has decreased 19
percent compared to its 20th century average. Models predict
that by 2100, the river flow could fall as much as 55 percent.
The Colorado River, and the people it sustains, are in serious
The newly passed Drought Contingency Plan spurred additional
conservation and left more water in the lake. An unusually wet
year also helped, because it allowed states to fall back on
other supplies. But the fundamental problem remains: The river
still isn’t producing the amount of water we use in a typical
year. We’re still draining the mighty Colorado.
Summer energy demands driven higher as the COVID-19 pandemic
keeps more people at home could lead to more water flowing from
Glen Canyon Dam into the Colorado River. That could mean
rapidly changing conditions for rafters, anglers, hikers or
others on the river in Glen Canyon or the Grand Canyon,
Studies by reliable independent organizations prove the
pipeline is unnecessary, risky and cost prohibitive. To counter
these fact-based findings, pipeline proponents rely on
misleading arguments, skewed data and fear in an attempt to
“sell” the pipeline to taxpayers and water users who are
unaware of the facts and place undue trust in government
In many respects, the Arizona Water Blueprint – a data-rich,
interactive map of Arizona’s water resources and infrastructure
created by the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State
University – could not have been rolled out at a better time.
Research into Arizona’s varied sources of water is approaching
an all-time high.
Following the Imperial Irrigation District’s recent win on a
monumental water case in California’s appellate court against
Michael Abatti, the water district is back in court filing the
opening brief against the other large water district is
Southern California, the Metropolitan Water District.
Demonstrators in northern Mexico have burned several government
vehicles, blocked railway tracks and set afire a government
office and highway tollbooths to protest water payments to the
The community already beset by an environmental disaster is now
facing a pandemic of the worst proportions. Residents and
activists, who have long fought for more funding and pollution
mitigation, say the area was already at a steep disadvantage
for health care. Now the largely agrarian community has found
itself in the middle of a perfect storm of environmental
neglect, poverty, and the coronavirus.
The state of California, long derided for its failure to act in
the past, says it is now moving full-bore to address the Salton
Sea’s problems, with ambitious plans for wildlife habitat
expansion and dust suppression.
On appeal, the court held that the District’s water allocation
methodology in the “equitable distribution plan” was reasonable
and not an abuse of discretion, and that Abatti and the other
farmers in IID only hold an interest in, or right to, water
Legal scholars believe that the Lake Powell pipeline would
likely violate the 1922 Colorado River Compact as a
transfer of upper basin water (WY, UT, CO, NM) for lower basin
use (CA, NV, AZ). The lower basin has priority, and the compact
arguably prohibits transfers from the upper to lower basin
absent explicit congressional authorization
Farmers once again clashed with Mexican military forces Sunday
to protest releases of water from a dam to repay a water debt
owed to the United States. … Under a 1944 treaty, Mexico owes
the United States about 415,000 acre-feet yearly that must be
paid by Oct. 24. Mexico has fallen badly behind in payments
from previous years and now has to quickly catch up on water
Out of sight and out of mind to most people, the Salton Sea in
California’s far southeast corner has challenged policymakers
and local agencies alike to save the desert lake from becoming
a fetid, hyper-saline water body inhospitable to wildlife and
surrounded by clouds of choking dust.
The Imperial Irrigation District and farmer Michael Abatti have
been locked in a years-long legal battle with as many twists as
the river over which it has been fought. The saga might finally
come to an end, though, after a California appellate court
handed down a ruling on Thursday that found IID is the rightful
manager of the portion of the Colorado River guaranteed to the
Out of sight and out of mind to most
people, the Salton Sea in California’s far southeast corner has
challenged policymakers and local agencies alike to save the
desert lake from becoming a fetid, hyper-saline water body
inhospitable to wildlife and surrounded by clouds of choking
The sea’s problems stretch beyond its boundaries in Imperial and
Riverside counties and threaten to undermine multistate
management of the Colorado River. A 2019 Drought Contingency Plan for the
Lower Colorado River Basin was briefly stalled when the Imperial
Irrigation District, holding the river’s largest water
allocation, balked at participating in the plan because, the
district said, it ignored the problems of the Salton Sea.
The closing of 30 coal-fired generating units across the West –
including 10 in Colorado – could free-up more than 76 billion
gallons of river and groundwater a year in the increasingly
parched region, although utilities appear cautious about giving
up their water rights.
The drivers of Washington County’s thirst for more water are
the fact that its average water use is the highest in the
country, clocking in at 302 gallons per capita per day… By
contrast, Las Vegas, whose climate is very similar and a mere
two-hour drive away, uses only 124 gallons… If St. George and
the rest of Washington County lowered their water use to that
of Las Vegas, they would have plenty of water to cover the
needs of twice as many residents and then some.
A proposed pipeline in Utah could divert approximately 86,000
acre feet of water annually from Lake Mead, but it will most
likely not harm the overall water level in the reservoir. The
Lake Powell Pipeline is a proposed project that would transport
water from Lake Powell to Washington County in Utah.
The Imperial Irrigation District has filed its opening brief in
a case against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California that it launched last year in an attempt to halt the
implementation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan for
the Colorado River. IID wants to see it paused until the Salton
Sea is also considered.
California’s state budget includes $47 million to help the
Salton Sea. The new budget was signed by Governor Newsom last
month. … News Channel 3’s Madison Weil spoke with Phil
Rosentrater, the executive director of the Salton Sea
Authority, to see how the new funds will be used.
To live in Colorado is to know drought. Since 2000, there has
been only one month-plus-long period (from late May to mid July
of 2019) when no drought has been desiccating the earth here.
Other than that, at least one part of the state has been in a
perpetual state of crisp.
To those who opposed the dam, Glen Canyon Dam’s history reads
like an obituary about the loss of an incomparable sandstone
and water wonderland… Those on the other side of the issue
feel the dam has improved Glen Canyon – now providing greater
access to its breathtaking contrast of towering crimson
sandstone walls and vast expanses of crystal blue water.
Imperial Irrigation District made the first notable follow-up
to its petition to hit the brakes on the Lower Basin Drought
Contingency Plan for the Colorado River with an opening brief
The public last week had its first opportunity to pepper
officials with questions about the Lake Powell Pipeline’s
recently-released draft environmental impact statement, a
313-page document from the Bureau of Reclamation examining how
the controversial project could impact a myriad of resources in
Researchers in the Grand Canyon now spend weeks at a time,
several times a year, monitoring humpback chub, which has
become central to an ecosystem science program with
implications for millions of westerners who rely on Colorado
Here at 12,000 feet on the Continental Divide, only vestiges of
the winter snowpack remain, scattered white patches that have
yet to melt and feed the upper Colorado River, 50 miles away.
That’s normal for mid-June in the Rockies. What’s unusual this
year is the speed at which the snow went. And with it went
hopes for a drought-free year in the Southwest.
A new study describes how food web dynamics influence the
movement of mercury throughout the Colorado River in the Grand
Canyon. This new research from the U.S. Geological Survey and
partners represents one of the first times that the movement
and fate of mercury has been traced through an entire food web.
Before the end of 2026, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior will
develop new guidelines for the long-term management of
the Colorado River system. The seven Colorado River Basin
States are expected to play a leading role in the process to
develop those new guidelines. The process will take many
years and require multiple levels of discussion, negotiation
and coordination within Arizona and among the Basin states.
A recent analysis published in Nature found cattle to be one of
the major drivers of water shortages. Notably, it is because of
water used to grow crops that are fed to cows such as alfalfa
and hay. Across the US, cattle-feed crops, which end up as beef
and dairy products, account for 23% of all water consumption,
according to the report. In the Colorado River Basin, it is
Already affected by the warming temperatures of climate change
the flow of the Colorado is once again being challenged by a
proposed $2.24 billion taxpayer-funded pipeline taking 86,000
square-acre-feet of water to a community that already uses 234%
more water than the average community — and does not need it.
A major water source for the Valley is considerably more
drought resistant than previously thought. New research shows
the water that flows into the Salt and Verde rivers is four
times less sensitive to climate change than the Colorado River.
The design for a section of the border wall that will span
Southern Arizona’s San Pedro River is coming to light, more
than a year after a contract was awarded to build it. The plan
is to build 30-foot-tall steel bollards across the river and
install swing gates under the bollards to allow river water to
flow, Customs and Border Protection officials said in a June 12
call with local environmental advocates and congressional
Historically, Colorado has had a love-hate relationship with
the 1968 Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. While we have unarguably
some of the wildest and most scenic rivers in America, Colorado
has only one such designated section – the Cache la Poudre
River above the city of Ft. Collins. New Jersey, a much smaller
state with many fewer river miles, has five designated Wild &
We are preparing now for the tougher negotiations that lie
ahead to develop new operating rules for the Colorado River.
Last week, Arizona’s water community began work preparing our
state’s vision of what Colorado River management should look
like after the current set of rules expire in a little more
than six years.
As the Salton Sea retreats, leaving the dry playa exposed, dust
particles become airborne and mobilize lung-damaging toxins
from agricultural runoff. Red Hill Bay, located near the
southeastern corner of the sea, would restore habitat by
flooding the area, but it’s one of several mitigation projects
that have taken flack for progressing so slowly.
The water has made development possible and is used for farms,
homes and businesses. Meanwhile, recreation has risen to over 4
million annual visitors in Glen Canyon National Recreation
Area, with tourists bringing in over $420 million to local
communities. But climate scientists studying the Colorado River
find the lake’s water source is quickly declining.
Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Utah, Wyoming and
Nevada have been operating under a set of guidelines approved
in 2007. Those guidelines and an overlapping drought
contingency plan will expire in 2026. Arizona water officials
are gathering Thursday to start talking about what comes next,
while other states have had more informal discussions.
On June 22, 1980, Lake Powell reached its capacity for the
first time, marking a grim milestone for environmentalists who
have never forgotten the loss of Glen Canyon. Before the waters
began pouring in, it was a maze of towering sandstone cliffs
and spires, with thousands of indigenous ruins now mostly lost.
States have grappled in the last two decades with declining
water levels in the basin’s main reservoirs — Mead and Powell —
while reckoning with clear scientific evidence that climate
change is already constricting the iconic river… For water
managers, the steady drop in water consumption in recent years
is a signal that conservation efforts are working and that they
are not helpless in the face of daunting environmental changes.
As Utah pushes forward with its proposed Lake Powell Pipeline –
an attempt move over 80,000 acre feet per year of its Upper
Colorado River Basin allocation to communities in the Lower
Basin – it is worth revisiting one of the critical legal
milestones in the evolution of what we have come to call “the
Law of the River.”
There’s a reckoning coming, unless cities and farm districts
across the West band together to limit consumption. The coming
dealmaking will almost certainly need to involve the river’s
largest water user, the Imperial Irrigation District. But at
the moment, it’s unclear to what extent the district actually
controls the Imperial Valley’s Colorado River water. That was
the issue debated in a San Diego courtroom last week
Nevada restricted groundwater pumping Tuesday in an area north
of Las Vegas, potentially killing a real estate project that
threatens an endangered fish clinging to existence in a handful
of spring-fed desert pools…
The Fourth Appellate Court of California heard the Abatti
parties vs. Imperial Irrigation lawsuit, Friday, June 12. The
appeal was generated after Imperial County Superior Court Judge
Brooks Anderholt ruled in Abatti’s favor of repealing the
Equitable Distribution Plan in August 2017, which could ration
agricultural water users by historical and straight-line
measurements to deal with the longest drought in modern
President Trump’s wall now stretches along 200 miles of
U.S.-Mexico borderland. Progress hasn’t slowed during the
coronavirus pandemic; in some places it’s even accelerating.
But there’s a tiny swath of tribal land on the Colorado River
where that’s not the case.
Colorado is home to the headwaters of the Colorado River and
the water policy decisions made in the Centennial State
reverberate throughout the river’s sprawling basin that
stretches south to Mexico. The stakes are huge in a basin that
serves 40 million people, and responding to the water needs of
the economy, productive agriculture, a robust recreational
industry and environmental protection takes expertise,
leadership and a steady hand. Colorado has that in Becky
Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board
A draft report released today by the San Diego County Water
Authority shows that building a new conveyance system to
transport regional water supplies from the Colorado River
Quantification Settlement Agreement is cost-competitive with
other long-term options for meeting the region’s water needs.
Water is power in California’s Imperial Valley, and a
years-long fight over allocations from the Colorado River to
the agriculture-heavy region landed back in court on Friday.
Attorneys representing local farmers and the Imperial
Irrigation District squared off in front of a three-judge panel
at the state appellate court level over a water-rights lawsuit
expected to be decided in 90 days.