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.
Above-average snowpack in the upper Colorado River basin not only means a good forecast for Colorado, but for all seven states in its river system. That’s according to the latest monthly study released by the Bureau of Reclamation earlier this week. Officials found that the snowpack in the basin through the winter ended up being 130 percent of average.
California’s inability to compromise and work together has put a big question mark on the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan. And that directly impacts Arizona’s ability to proactively plan for our new, drier water future.
Arizona’s top water official says a lawsuit filed Tuesday by California’s Imperial Irrigation District could pose a threat to the newly approved multistate drought contingency plan. But Tom Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources, said he’s not worried the plan will fall apart — at least not yet.
The Colorado River Sustainability Campaign has been an important behind-the-scenes player for environmentalists working on the waterway, which provides water to 40 million people. … When asked who funds his project, Sam Tucker listed five foundations. Those foundations’ grant databases showed that his campaign has received at least $8.6 million since 2016. … Almost half — $4 million — of the campaign’s money came from one source: the Walton Family Foundation. (Second of two parts.)
Should the state of California honor a commitment made in 2003 to restore the Salton Sea, despite moving water away from the area to thirsty coastal cities? Or should this artificial, long-festering sea be left alone to dry up entirely? While politicians have dithered, Bombay Beach’s atmospheric decay has drawn filmmakers, novelists and other artists who marvel at the thriving community hidden inside seemingly derelict properties.
There are at least six high-profile projects in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming that combined could divert more than 300,000 acre-feet of water from the beleaguered Colorado River. That’s the equivalent of Nevada’s entire allocation from the river. These projects are in different stages of permitting and funding, but are moving ahead even as headlines about the river’s dwindling supply dominate the news.
An unlikely advocate seems to be around every bend of the Colorado River these days: the Walton Family Foundation. The $3.65 billion organization launched by Walmart founder Sam Walton has become ubiquitous in the seven-state basin that provides water to 40 million people, dishing out $100 million in grants in the last five years alone. … The foundation’s reach is dizzying and, outside the basin, has received scant attention. (First of two parts.)
The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a thorough environmental analysis has been completed.
A new study released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts a release of up to 9 million acre-feet of water from Lake Powell to Lake Mead this year, which means a possible shortage declaration looming in 2020 might be averted. The snowpack in the Colorado River Basin is about 130 percent of average, with flows into Lake Powell predicted to be 128 percent of average during the runoff season.
President Donald Trump signed a bill Tuesday authorizing a plan for Western states to take less water from the overburdened Colorado River. The president’s signing capped a years-long process of sometimes difficult negotiations among the seven states that rely on the river. … Next, representatives from Arizona and the other Colorado River basin states who had a hand in crafting the deal are expected to meet for a formal signing ceremony.
Daryl Vigil, water administrator at Jicarilla Apache Nation, who worked on the study, said it’s relatively new for local and federal lawmakers to include tribes in national water policy conversations. “That conversation and that opportunity wasn’t available before,” Vigil said. “But now with the conclusion of this DCP and the inclusion of tribes in that dialogue, I think that sets the stage for that to happen.”
Here’s something worth celebrating: In a rare bipartisan resolve to prevent a water crisis in the Southwest, Congress has authorized a plan to reduce consumption from the Colorado River – a major conservation milestone. It shows that when we work together as Americans, we can address some of the biggest challenges facing our nation today.
Massive fish-die offs. Dead birds. A toxic stench. Bryan Mendez and Olivia Rodriguez are dissatisfied that those sad facts are the only things most Californians ever hear about the Salton Sea, one of the largest inland seas in the world.
Congress passed an historic Colorado River drought deal on Monday, which is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for his signature. That leaves Arizona back to wrestling with water issues that it mostly set aside during the two years it fixated on the negotiations for the Colorado River deal.
Zig-zagging around us, among the trees, is a sprawling network of irrigation ditches. It’s almost laid out like a farm. Instead of the food crops grown all around this site, Schlatter’s team grows trees and willows, prime habitat for birds, coyotes, frogs and other wildlife. The whole site only receives water a couple times a year.
At its core, the ill-advised attempt to “restore” the Salton Sea is nothing short of environmental malpractice. It will inevitably fail at a very high cost to both wildlife and taxpayers, succeeding only in perpetuating a hazardous condition.
Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful, provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Delta tunnels plan.
An international team of researchers has carried out the first systematic global review of water reallocation from rural to urban regions—the practice of transferring water from rural areas to cities to meet demand from growing urban populations. … The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, found North America and Asia are hotspots for rural-to-urban water reallocation,
In Medieval Europe, all roads led to Rome. In Arizona, all rivers lead to the Colorado. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say the state of Arizona lies almost entirely within the Colorado River drainage basin, which also sprawls across southwestern Wyoming and down through parts of Utah, Colorado, Nevada, California and New Mexico.
“Postcards from Mecca,” the current La Quinta Museum exhibit, is a display of photos from the eastern end of the Coachella Valley, taken between 1916 and 1936 by Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves, two adventurous women who called the desert home. … Included are photos of a tunnel and workers building the 242-mile Colorado River Aqueduct … delivering Colorado River water to Southern California.
All this reliance on an overallocated river has left its final hundred miles as the ultimate collateral damage. Since the early 1960s, when Glen Canyon Dam impounded the river near Page, Arizona, it has rarely reached the Pacific Ocean. The thread is frayed beyond recognition, leaving no water for the river itself.
Responding to congressional approval of a Southwestern drought pact, officials from the Imperial Irrigation District said Tuesday the Salton Sea is the untested plan’s “first casualty.” … IID had refused to sign the plan because it wanted a “firm commitment” of more than $400 million in state and federal funds to resolve environmental issues at the Salton Sea.
An increasing number of solutions to California and Arizona’s long-term water problems now involve Mexico. Some of the ideas are seemingly far-fetched, like a pipeline to bring water from the Gulf of California to the Salton Sea in Imperial County. Some are already happening, like Mexico agreeing to reduce its water use in the event of a Colorado River shortage. … That stands in contrast not only to recent threats by President Donald Trump to shut down the border, but some existing water projects.
A bill that would authorize the federal government to enact a drought plan for Colorado River basin states in times of shortage has passed Congress and is on its way to the White House for the president’s signature. … Its aim is to protect water users from deep losses and keep the reservoirs and river healthy.
Tohono O’odham Chairman Edward D. Manuel testified Thursday that lack of water has been killing crops and livestock – and, essentially, the tribe’s economy – and things will only get worse if federal funding is allowed to lapse. That’s why Manuel joined officials from other tribes, utilities and advocacy groups to urge passage of a bill by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, that would make permanent a federal fund used to help the government meet its obligations under legal settlements over water-rights issues.
It might be tempting to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors, especially given all the rain and snow this winter. But our work is not done. In fact, the San Diego County Water Authority’s board leadership will ask the board of directors to consider options to leverage the investments we have made in decades past to meet the challenges and opportunities of decades to come.
Two of the four plants are scheduled to close by 2025. The fate of the third rests upon a longshot bid to keep it open beyond 2022. … Navajo Generating Station was built as part of a federal effort to bring water to Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz. Power from the plant was used to pump water up and out of the Colorado River and across the desert. The federal government still owns a stake in NGS through the Interior Department.
It started with a question: How big can Las Vegas grow before the water runs out? The answer from the Las Vegas Review-Journal is The Water Question, a 10-part series online and in print that brought together different parts of the newsroom. Together, staff took The Water Question from a planned Sunday package to both a series and online resource that asks and answers critical questions for Las Vegas.
On the first morning of a water conference in downtown Phoenix on Friday, an academic expert spoke of aridification in the Colorado River basin due to the ill effects of humans burning fossil fuels. After dinner, a writer of vivid predictive fiction spoke about his book “The Water Knife,” which describes Phoenix in a dusty and water-starved river basin, in the not-so-distant future.
Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation introduced legislation Tuesday on a plan to address a shrinking supply of water from a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S. West. Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva vowed to move identical bills quickly through the chambers. Bipartisan lawmakers from Colorado River basin states signed on as co-sponsors.
The use of public art to bring about social change created the interactive art event called the “Bombay Beach Biennale” on the shores of the Salton Sea. Organizers hope to bring attention to the long-ignored environmental issue facing the region, once one of the premier tourist destinations in Southern California.
Excluded from a Southwestern drought pact, the Imperial Irrigation District won a small victory on Tuesday when federal legislators included protections for the Salton Sea that were left out of previous drafts of the agreement.
The March 26 opinion piece by Tom Buschatzke and 13 other Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan proponents to persuade the public that the DCP is good for the Salton Sea would have been better served – and made more believable – by a show of good faith rather than a show of force.
Decay festers all around at the Salton Sea, the vast inland lake in Southern California that once hosted beauty pageants and boat races in its tourist heyday. … But new life is moving into the breach. At Bombay Beach, artists drawn by the cheap prices and surreal setting have been snapping up lots and crumbling buildings as gallery spaces.
Precious water is vanishing into thin air at the Colorado River’s two largest reservoirs, and scientists are only now learning the true scale of the problem. Building on ongoing research at Lake Mead, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Nevada’s Desert Research Institute have teamed up on a new study using remote sensors on floating platforms at Lake Powell to pinpoint how much water is lost to evaporation.
A plan to divvy up cutbacks to Colorado River water in times of shortage has passed its first two tests in Congress. On Thursday, a House subcommittee endorsed the Drought Contingency Plan after questioning the state and federal officials who crafted it. Thursday’s approval came a day after a Senate subcommittee endorsed the plan. Next, lawmakers in both chambers will have to negotiate and vote on bills that would allow the federal government to carry out the plan.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally vowed Wednesday to take quick action on a plan to preserve the drought-stricken Colorado River, which serves about 40 million people in the U.S. West and Mexico. … The plans that have been in the works for years got a first congressional hearing Wednesday before a subcommittee that McSally chairs. The Arizona Republican said she’ll introduce a bill soon and expects strong support.
The agreement represents the first multistate effort in more than a decade to readjust the collective rules for dealing with potential shortages. … But even as the drought agreement has earned widespread praise as a historic step toward propping up the river’s reservoirs, Arizona’s plan for implementing the deal has also drawn criticism for relying on a strategy that some argue has significant drawbacks.
In recent days, there have been contentions that the DCP has left a major factor out of the equation: the Salton Sea, California’s largest inland lake. But this simply is not the case. … The Imperial Irrigation District has yet to sign on to the DCP. The DCP has an on-ramp for IID’s participation if they change their minds. But with or without IID’s participation, the DCP will not adversely impact the Salton Sea…
I introduced AB 854 because the board of directors of IID, one of California’s most powerful municipal utilities, operates without representation from Riverside County ratepayers who make up 60 percent of their service territory. Moreover, according to The Desert Sun, Riverside County ratepayers provide IID with the majority of its revenue yet have no voice on how their municipal utility is managed.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman commended Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming for reaching a consensus on the Colorado River drought contingency plan. Now the states are seeking approval from Congress to implement it.
The state of California declared the drought is over – but don’t touch your sprinkler programming. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says the city is not easing watering restrictions because the next “drought is right around the corner,” and conservation is “the new normal.”
On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, veteran environmental journalist Jim Robbins joins us to talk about his in-depth series headlined, “The West’s Great River Hits Its Limits: Will the Colorado Run Dry?”
The Colorado River Basin was already running near empty before the Trump administration approved a new deal allowing additional extractions from one of its main tributaries. While the administration found the deal would not have a significant impact on the environment surrounding the river, a collection of environmental groups say in a new federal lawsuit that it will further deplete the river basin’s supply…
In the coming days, Congress will begin committee hearings on unusually concise, 139-word legislation that would allow the secretary of the interior to implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP. … This agreement marks a watershed moment in building our country’s resilience to climate change.
The directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted Thursday to start exploring the feasibility of a demand-management program as part of a larger effort to manage falling water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead and avoid violating the Colorado River Compact.
Because the Green is the biggest tributary of the Colorado River system, the amount of water available for the divvying is decided by the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement that delineated how much water was in the Colorado River Basin and how it should be split up. … It’s a rigid framework for a system that’s inherently variable…
Four hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where alfalfa is king. … Massive industrial storehouses line the southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows – but not cows in California’s Central Valley or Montana’s rangelands. Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia.
What image comes to mind when you think of Lake Mead? For most, it’s likely the infamous “bathtub ring,” a troubling sign of the depleted water supply in this life-sustaining reservoir. But while this is one of the most frequently deployed images associated with the decades long “drought” in the West, do we really see it? Does it make an impact that’s strong enough to shift our perceptions and motivate us to alter our personal water consumption?
The stations monitor meteorological conditions over the water and estimate evaporation using four primary methods: eddy covariance, energy balance, aerodynamic bulk mass transfer, and the combination of energy balance and aerodynamic. Data from the stations are transmitted back to the research team via a web portal for real-time monitoring.
Another group of top state officials visited the Salton Sea this week to promise that this time, things will be different and progress will be made to restore the fast-drying water body. … Newly appointed water board chairman E. Joaquin Esquivel, who grew up in nearby La Quinta and fished in the lake as a boy, said he shares residents’ and longtime experts’ frustrations, and feels personally accountable to family members who still live in the area, as well as the communities around the lake.
There can be no more excuses for federal inaction. Yet shockingly I have learned from recent investigative reporting that the Trump administration is now pushing federal legislation that would eliminate public health and environmental protections for the Salton Sea and beyond as part of a federal drought plan for the Colorado River.
The Desert Research Institute, Averyt said, is engaged in research looking at long-term and short-term climate change, where the impact of human-caused warming is clear. Researchers with DRI have looked at ice cores from Greenland to map out long-term climate trends. At the same time, other researchers are looking at more immediate trends through the Western Regional Climate Center, which provides contemporary climate data for the 11 contiguous western states.
Residents and officials who packed a yacht club on the north shore of the Salton Sea on Tuesday vented their anger about what they perceive as unnecessary delays and obfuscations about the environmental and public health disaster unfolding here. The California Water Resources Control Board held the workshop at the North Shore Yacht and Beach Club to both inform the public and garner opinions of residents living in proximity to the sea, which is rapidly vanishing into the desert.
Representatives of seven states finished a landmark agreement to shore up the dwindling Colorado River and signed a letter to Congress on Tuesday calling for legislation to enact the deal. The set of agreements would prop up water-starved reservoirs that supply cities and farms across the Southwest and would lay the groundwork for larger negotiations to address the river’s chronic overallocation…
On Tuesday, March 19, the California Water Resources Control Board will hold a session on the North Shore to hear from state officials about their progress addressing the many issues related to the Salton Sea. This is a good opportunity for these officials to break through the remaining obstacles to progress at the Salton Sea and find a productive way forward.
It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1 Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan, which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years because of an exceptionally wet winter. The Imperial Irrigation District, a sprawling rural water district in the southeastern corner of California, refused to sign on until the federal government pledged to provide $200 million to clean up the Salton Sea, which has not occurred.
For the moment, Mother Nature is smiling on the Colorado River. Enough snow has piled up in the mountains that feed the river to stave off a dreaded shortage declaration for one more year, according to federal projections released Friday afternoon.
If, as being widely reported, the Colorado River basin states … ultimately decide to proceed with a Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan that cuts out the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), no one should be surprised. It’s simply continuing a long, and perhaps successful, tradition of basin governance by running over the “miscreant(s)”.
The chances for passage this year of legislation to jump-start serious water planning in New Mexico, including by pumping millions of dollars into the effort, evaporated last week when a Senate committee tabled a key bill.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado River Commission of Nevada. Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins was appointed last August to take the helm of the United States section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries…
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is pushing legislation that would exempt its work from environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health and ecological disaster.
Imperial Valley officials are reportedly close to finishing an important habitat restoration project at the Salton Sea. The remake of Red Hill Bay was supposed to be a model for a management plan around the shrinking lake, but the effort is two years overdue and still months away from completion. The Salton Sea needs a management plan because water is evaporating faster than it’s being replaced…
The Imperial Irrigation District is being written out of a massive, multi-state Colorado River drought plan at the eleventh hour. IID could sue to try to stop the revised plan from proceeding, and its board president called the latest development a violation of California environmental law. But Metropolitan Water District of Southern California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said attorneys for his agency, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and others in a working group are finalizing new documents to remove IID from the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
Rebuffed by an Arizona House panel, a Globe lawmaker convinced a Senate committee Tuesday that Pinal County farmers should get $20 million more to help drill new wells to replace Colorado River water they will give up. The 6-3 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee came after Republican Rep. David Cook argued the farmers were promised the cash as part of the drought contingency plan enacted by in January.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with the management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.
Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins, 58, was appointed by President Trump last August to take the helm of the United States section of the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries as they seek to sustainably manage the supply and water quality of the Colorado River, including its once-thriving Delta in Mexico, and other rivers the two countries share. She is the first woman to be named the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission for either the United States or Mexico in the commission’s 129-year history.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday sealed California’s participation in a landmark Colorado River drought management plan, agreeing to shoulder more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels. With California signed on, the plan can move to Congress, which must approve the multi-state agreement before it takes effect. The MWD board took the step over the objections of the Imperial Irrigation District, which holds senior rights to the biggest allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado.
The sandy playa that used to be underwater is now being baked by the sun and blown around by the winds that frequently scour the desert floor here. The dust is tiny and can easily get airborne. That is a public health crisis for a region already suffering from some of California’s highest asthma rates.
The Metropolitan Water District is positioning itself to shoulder California’s entire water contribution, with its board voting Tuesday on a proposal to essentially write out of the drought plan another agency that gets more Colorado River water than anyone else. That agency, the Imperial Irrigation District, has said it won’t approve the plan unless the federal government agrees to commit $200 million to address the Salton Sea.
California is now the lone holdout on an emergency drought plan for the Colorado River, and the other river states are turning up the heat to get the deal done. Representatives from Nevada and five other Western states sent a letter to California on Saturday urging water officials there to set aside their concerns and “and immediately and unconditionally approve” the so-called Drought Contingency Plan.
Much of the United States could be gripped by significant water shortages in just five decades’ time, according to predictions made in a new study. … In the researchers’ projections, water supply is likely to be under threat in watersheds in the central and southern Great Plains, the Southwest and central Rocky Mountain States, California, and areas in the South (especially Florida) and the Midwest.
The Colorado River’s federal managers have projected that if dry conditions continue, they could be unable to deliver any water at all to downstream users (including Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Diego) within five years. That’s the doomsday scenario that has led the Colorado River’s water managers and users to the cusp of adopting the Drought Contingency Plan, a temporary yet broad agreement to reduce water use and ensure that the reservoirs continue to provide a reliable water supply.
Political disputes, interstate suspicion and funding concerns have long been a fact of life when it comes to the Colorado River. Those same factors now are delaying a final agreement on how to handle drought in the river basin. But, at least none of the states involved has called out its navy. Arizona did that 85 years ago to prevent completion of Parker Dam, the concrete structure on the Colorado River that backs up Lake Havasu on the border between California and Arizona.
It seems like a simple question: How many people can Southern Nevada support with the water it has now? But the answer is far from easy. The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth and conservation and the severity of drought on the Colorado River. (Last in the paper’s Water Question series.)
The question comes up with every dire media report or bleak new forecast about the Colorado River: How much longer can Nevada’s largest community continue to rely on a single source of water to power its prosperity? It’s an important question, maybe the most important. No Southwestern state gets less water from the river than Nevada. No major city depends on that water more than Las Vegas. But the Colorado is in trouble. (Part 1 of 8 in a series.)
Lawmakers in Colorado want the U.S. state to study the potential of blockchain technology in water rights management. Republican senator Jack Tate, along with representatives Jeni James Arndt (Democratic) and Marc Catlin (Republican), filed senate bill 184 on Tuesday, proposing that the Colorado Water Institute should be granted authority to study how blockchain technology can help improve its operations.
California’s largest lake has long attracted visitors. Many go there year-round to see thousands of birds congregating around the lake and its nearby habitats, but the lake is changing and that’s changing bird populations.
With another deadline missed Monday, the head of the Bureau of Reclamation is now looking for the governors in the states in the Colorado River basin to tell her what they think she should do to keep water levels from dropping even lower. But there’s just two weeks for them to do that.
About half the Sycuan Indian tribe relies heavily on a single groundwater well for water. The whole tribe now wants access to the same water most San Diegans enjoy – Colorado River water, Northern California water and desalinated Pacific Ocean water. Most of San Diego’s state legislative delegation is pushing a bill that could make it happen.
Days after Imperial Irrigation District officials said there had been a breakthrough in negotiations with federal officials to commit to the restoration of the Salton Sea in a mammoth Colorado River drought plan, a top federal official offered a different assessment. … The Reclamation statement said it’s up to IID to decide when they want to join the drought plan, indicating a possible avenue for them to join later that would not stymie the entire agreement.
The problem started on Feb. 17, when Paonia’s water operators noted a loss of water in a 2 million gallon storage tank. A team went out looking for a leak, but could not locate it. As the leak continued, the town’s water system lost enough pressure that the state of Colorado imposed a boil order. In response, town officials declared a state of emergency.
Imperial Irrigation District officials announced at a special board meeting late Friday that the federal Bureau of Reclamation has agreed to their condition that the drought contingency plan package include restoration of the Salton Sea. They said federal officials will write a strong letter of support backing IID’s requests for $200 million in Farm Bill funding for wetlands projects around the shrinking sea, which is California’s largest inland water body.
California’s Salton Sea, the state’s largest inland body of water, formed when a dam broke. It stayed alive fed by agricultural water runoff. Today, it’s water supply is slowing, and the sea is drying up and losing its place as a fishing and recreation hotspot. But … the Salton Sea is finding new life as haven for artists.
Betting on water is a risky endeavor. Experts on water in Arizona say that while it’s easy to start speculating on water, cashing out is not. Would-be profiteers have to buy water or land with rights to it. They have to work within the thicket of laws and regulations governing water in Arizona and contend with the fraught politics of Western water. The ability to store water underground has also given rise to a market-like system in Arizona in which people talk about diverse portfolios and asset acquisitions.
We hope the move by MWD — which in 2016 had played hardball of its own by linking its support of the Colorado River drought plan to federal and state support of a Delta water project — doesn’t again sidetrack true federal involvement at the Salton Sea.
Arizona state water regulators have confirmed that here may not be enough water underground for dozens of planned developments in Pinal County, new subdivisions that, if built, would bring more than 139,000 homes. That finding is based on data the Arizona Department of Water Resources has compiled that shows a long-term groundwater shortage in the area is possible. The data … raises red flags about growthand the water supply in one of the fastest growing parts of the state.
Winter storms have blanketed the mountains on the upper Colorado River with snow. But even this year’s above-average snowpack won’t be nearly enough to make up for the river’s chronic overallocation, compounded by 19 years of drought and the worsening effects of climate change.
With a Monday deadline looming, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has offered to break an impasse on a seven-state Colorado River drought contingency package by contributing necessary water from its own reserves on behalf of the Imperial Irrigation District. It’s not help that IID is seeking, but Metropolitan general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said he had no choice.
Imported water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on imported water.
Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s, Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.
The Imperial Irrigation District wants $200 million for the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake in the desert southeast of Los Angeles created when the Colorado River breached a dike in 1905 and flooded a dry lake bed. The district says if the federal government doesn’t commit to giving California the money, it won’t sign off on a multistate plan to preserve the river’s two largest reservoirs amid a prolonged drought.
Follow along on our water tour of the Lower Colorado River – and keep up with any of our tours and events – through our social media channels. We’ll post updates on our Twitter account @WaterEdFdn about people, issues and places as we travel along the Lower Colorado River from Hoover Dam to the Coachella Valley Feb. 27 through March 1.
All eyes have been on the Colorado River recently with headlines across the west announcing the progress – or lack thereof – of the efforts of the seven basin states to reach agreement on the Drought Contingency Plan. So is the Colorado River in crisis? At the 2019 California Irrigation Institute conference, Dr. Brad Udall’s keynote presentation focused on answering that question.
Arizona’s efforts to finish a Colorado River drought plan are moving forward after leaders of the Gila River Indian Community announced that they will proceed with their piece of the deal. … The Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because the community is entitled to about a fourth of the water that passes through the Central Arizona Project Canal, and it has offered to kick in some water to make the drought agreement work.
The furrows in a 60-acre patch of dirt on Rodney and Tiffany Shedd’s Arizona farm still hold cotton scraps from last year’s crop. This year, that patch will stay barren for the first time in recent memory, thanks to the decline in Colorado River water for farms across Pinal County, one of America’s cotton-growing centers.
In 2014 Santa Monica embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. … The switch has been accomplished through an extensive plan that encompasses small measures like toilet replacements, household rain harvest barrels and aggressive conservation to large measures like cleaning up contaminated groundwater, capturing street runoff and recycling water.
The odds are looking increasingly poor that Arizona and other Western states will meet a March 4 federal deadline for wrapping up Colorado River drought plans. That’s not just because of the ongoing conflict over a now-shelved water rights bill for Eastern Arizona that prompted a threat from the Gila River Indian Community to bolt this state’s drought plan. It’s also not just because of a Southern California irrigation district’s efforts to secure $200 million in U.S. funds to shore up the dying Salton Sea.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers on Tuesday withdrew his bill that would repeal state laws on when farmers forfeit their water rights — legislation that the Gila River Indian Community said would cause it to withdraw from the multi-state drought contingency plan. But Bowers’ move did not get the tribe to sign the papers agreeing to provide Arizona with the 500,000 acre-feet of water it needs to make the drought plan a reality.
When people need more water, they often build dams to increase supply. But can dams increase water use in an unsustainable way, leading communities to live beyond their water means? That appears to often be the case, according to the authors of a recent paper in Nature Sustainability. Las Vegas is a textbook case.
Rising temperatures can lower flow by increasing the amount of water lost to evaporation from soil and surface water, boosting the amount of water used by plants, lengthening the growing season, and shrinking snowpacks that contribute to flow via meltwater. … The researchers found that rising temperatures are responsible for 53% of the long-term decline in the river’s flow, with changing precipitation patterns and other factors accounting for the rest.
Colorado will launch a far-reaching $20 million conservation planning effort this spring designed to ensure the state can reduce water use enough to stave off a crisis in the drought-choked Colorado River Basin.
This failure is twofold. First, the DCP has limited provisions for actually conserving water — only $2 million for groundwater conservation programs in active management areas. … Second, the DCP fails to address conservation for Arizona’s rivers, streams and springs, even in the face of warming and drying trends.
When growth skyrocketed in Phoenix and the East Valley during the 1990s and 2000s, housing developments started replacing decades-old farms. Now, it’s the west side’s turn. In 2000, Maricopa County had 510 square miles of agricultural land and 180 square miles of residential land west of Interstate 17. By 2017, farmland had dropped to 350 square miles while agricultural residential land grew to cover 280 square miles, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey steered away from the term “climate change” in order to garner political support for the state’s Colorado River drought plan, he indicated Friday in an interview with a Pima Community College newspaper. In that interview, he also avoided making any connection between climate change and the “drier future” (his preferred phrase) that Arizona faces. His omission bordered on a denial of the established links between the two.
The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.
The strategy of turning to groundwater pumping will test the limits of Arizona’s regulatory system for its desert aquifers, which targets some areas for pumping restrictions and leaves others with looser rules or no regulation at all. In Pinal County, which falls under these groundwater rules, the return to a total reliance on wells reflects a major turning point and raises the possibility that this part of Arizona could again sink into a pattern of falling groundwater levels — just as it did decades ago, before the arrival of Colorado River water.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said in a statement Thursday that a decision by House Speaker Rusty Bowers to move forward with a contentious water bill threatens the community’s plan to support the drought agreement. The Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because it’s entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal.
It’s all up to the Imperial Irrigation District. The fate of a seven-state plan to address dwindling Colorado River water supply now appears to rest squarely with the sprawling southeastern California water district. Its neighbor to the north, the Coachella Valley Water District, voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve interstate agreements that would conserve water for use by 40 million people and vast swaths of agricultural lands.
The Colorado river crisis ought to be upsetting markets. The U.S. waterway supports some $4 trillion in GDP and at least $1.3 trillion in stock value across seven U.S. states. The river was already virtually tapped out last century, and continuing troubles have now led the federal government to step in to help manage its water use. Yet investors have barely caused a ripple.
The Imperial Irrigation District holds among the oldest and largest rights to water from the Colorado River and is using that as leverage to get what it sees as a better deal in current drought contingency plan negotiations involving states that draw from the river. Among the hardball tactics IID is putting in play: A demand that the federal government provide $200 million for efforts to bolster the beleaguered Salton Sea.
Arizona and California aren’t done finishing a plan that would establish how states in the Colorado River Basin will ensure water for millions of people in the Southwest, said the head of the agency running the negotiations. … One challenge comes from the Imperial Irrigation District, a water utility that serves the Imperial Valley in southeastern California. It hasn’t signed California’s plan because it wants $200 million to restore the vanishing Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake.
A year after Colorado River imports were diverted to urban areas from farms draining into the lake, dire predictions about what would occur are coming to pass. A long-predicted, enormous ecological transition is occurring this winter.
The coring project is the initial phase of a multiyear analysis in partnership with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the National Park Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The agencies have set aside $1.3 million for the study, about half going toward extracting the cores.
Once criticized for being a profligate user of water, fast-growing Phoenix has taken some major steps — including banking water in underground reservoirs, slashing per-capita use, and recycling wastewater — in anticipation of the day when the flow from the Colorado River ends.
In the event that water elevation decreases below 1,050-feet, officials have developed a plan to address operational needs. Due to the government shutdown, the public wasn’t able to provide comment on the low water plan for Lake Mead. So an extension has been provided through Feb.15.
A notice published recently in the Federal Register is not sitting well with Imperial Irrigation District. That notice, submitted by the Department of Interior through the Bureau of Reclamation and published on Feb. 1, calls recommendations from the governors of the seven Colorado River Basin state for protective actions the Department of Interior should take in the absence of a completed drought contingency plan.
A major deadline just passed without unanimous agreement among Western states over the future of the Colorado River, so the federal government is one step closer to stepping in on the dwindling river that provides water for 1-in-8 Americans. The path forward has become murkier for the drought-stricken region now in its 19th year of low water levels after a January 31 deadline failed to garner signed agreements from Arizona and California.
Did the goalposts just move on us? … Media reports suggest that Reclamation is lumping Arizona with California, which clearly did not meet the deadline, in its reasoning for taking an action that we had all hoped to avoid. It’s easy to feel betrayed by that, to conclude that Arizona was asked to move mountains and then when we did, we were told it still wasn’t good enough.
All eyes were on Arizona this week as state lawmakers took a last-minute vote on their part of the pact. They approved the plan Thursday afternoon, just hours before the deadline, but Arizona officials still haven’t finalized a variety of documents. In addition, a California irrigation district with massive river rights has yet to sign off on the agreement. On Friday, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman … said the agency would start the formal legal process of soliciting comments on how it should impose cuts.
The Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s Western water bureaucracy that saw its dam-building heyday in the 1960s, has risen in stature once again in the Trump administration. Reclamation has flexed its muscles on Colorado River drought management plans… And it has been the administration’s key player in trying to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise to deliver more water to California farmers, squeezing the state and forging ahead on a dam project California says it doesn’t want.
California’s Imperial Irrigation District will get the last word on the seven-state Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans. And IID could end up with $200 million to restore the badly polluted and fast-drying Salton Sea. Thursday, as the clock ticked toward a midnight deadline set by a top federal official, all eyes had been on Arizona. But lawmakers there approved the Colorado River drought deal with about seven hours to spare. IID, an often-overlooked southeastern California agricultural water district, appears to have thrown a last-minute monkey wrench into the process.
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of drought and water shortages that is threatening their future. With an official water emergency declaration now possible, farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less water and survive. Third in a series.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed a drought contingency plan Thursday afternoon, six hours ahead of the deadline set by a key federal official for the state to act or face having its Colorado River water supply determined by her.That came despite objections from some legislators who questioned why the state will allow Pinal County farmers to once again pump groundwater for their crops and will also provide cash to help them do it.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes, or CRIT, have lands that stretch along 56 miles of the lower Colorado River. The tribe’s right to divert nearly 720,000 acre-feet from the river is more than twice the water that is allocated to the state of Nevada. By law, that water is to be used on the reservation. But if CRIT convinces Congress to allow off-reservation leasing, the change would free up a large volume of water that would be highly desirable for cities and industries.
Warnings of doomsday on the river are nothing new. Too many people, farms and factories depend on too little water, which is why the Colorado now rarely flows to its end point at the Gulf of California. The sprawling Southwest has sucked the river dry. Yet the region has thrived in spite of the naysayers. Until now, it appears.
The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of significant Colorado River events.
Arizona lawmakers appear on track to pass a Colorado River drought plan, with less than 30 hours to go before a critical federal deadline. A state Senate committee voted 6-1 Wednesday evening to pass a pair of measures that outline how the state would share looming cutbacks on the river’s water and work with other states to take less. The bills now head to the full Senate and House. Both chambers are expected to pass the bills Thursday, an effort that could stretch into the night as they rush to meet a federal deadline.
Avoiding a long-expected crisis on the Colorado River, a water source for 40 million people, is coming down to a final few days of frenzied negotiations. A 19-year drought and decades of overuse have put a water shortfall on the horizon. If California and six other states, all with deeply entrenched interests, can’t agree on a plan to cut their water consumption by Jan. 31, the federal government says it will step in and decide the river’s future.
Water conservation in the Las Vegas Valley is imperative as the city continues to grow. The resources provided by the Colorado River are stretched thin, as the river is responsible for supplying the majority of the water to Southern Nevada, six other states—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado—and Mexico. Combine these existing allotments with drought conditions that have reduced the river’s average flows by 30 percent annually, and it’s clear that Las Vegas must be proactive in its conservation efforts.
In Arizona, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan now hinges on the approval of tribal nations. The plan is meant to levy water cuts to seven Western states in order to prevent the river and its reservoirs from reaching critical levels — but after a state lawmaker introduced legislation that undermines parts of the Gila River Indian Community’s water settlement, the tribe has threatened to exit the plan. Without tribal buy-in, Arizona’s implementation design will collapse….
The Colorado River is not meeting its obligations. Its Lake Powell bank account is in danger of running dry. A 97-year-old agreement demands that the river deliver 5.2 trillion gallons of water to seven states and Mexico each year. That isn’t happening, and now — in the age of climate change — the chance of ever meeting that demand is fading. As a result, Utah’s plan to take more of its Colorado River water — by building a pipeline from Lake Powell to St. George — may be fading, too.
Arizona’s water leaders and lawmakers are running out of time to complete the state’s Drought Contingency Plan, a blueprint for how Arizona water users would share a likely shortage on the Colorado River. … There are a lot of moving parts to understand and a lot of concepts that may seem overwhelming. Here are the things you need to know in advance of the Jan. 31 deadline to finish the plan.
The restoration site is one of three south of the U.S.-Mexico border, in the riparian corridor along the last miles of the Colorado River. There, in the delta, a small amount of water has been reserved for nature, returned to an overallocated river whose flow has otherwise been claimed by cities and farms. Although water snakes through an agricultural canal system to irrigate the restoration sites, another source is increasingly important for restoring these patches of nature in the delta’s riparian corridor: groundwater.
Arizona lawmakers and the governor are under the gun to come up with a Drought Contingency Plan to deal with possible Colorado River water shortages. Get an update from Kathleen Ferris of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. This Arizona Horizon segment is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between public radio and public television stations in Arizona, California and Colorado.
Coachella Valley Water District board members on Tuesday debated issuing a $40 million bond to pay for an extension of the Oasis pipeline to bring imported water to about 40 farmers and others in the irrigation district, who would pay the costs back over 30 years. A small rate increase could be imposed as well. The 17-mile pipeline and three pump stations would provide Colorado River water to mostly longtime farmers in the valley who already obtain much of their water from the river via the All-American Canal, but get some from wells.
With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water?
Without a change in how the Colorado River is managed, Lake Powell is headed toward becoming a “dead pool,” essentially useless as a reservoir while revealing a sandstone wonderland once thought drowned forever by humanity’s insatiable desire to bend nature to its will. … Absent cutbacks to deliveries to the Lower Basin, a day could come when water managers may have little choice but to lower the waters that have inundated Utah’s Glen Canyon for the past half-century.
Longstanding urban-rural tensions over a proposed drought plan have escalated after Pinal County farmers stepped up their request for state money for well-drilling to replace Colorado River water deliveries. “Enough is enough,” responded 10 Phoenix-area cities through a spokesman. They say the state has already pledged millions to the farms for well drilling, and plenty of water to boot.
A declining Colorado River in Arizona. Orcas and salmon stocks in Washington state. Forest restoration in Idaho to protect drinking water sources from wildfire. And renewable energy seemingly everywhere. These are some of the water issues that U.S. governors have mentioned in their 2019 State of the State speeches. The speeches, usually given at the beginning of the legislative session, outline budget or policy priorities for the coming year.
The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been hashing out for months.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California … began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A. takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy and broke the story for Politico Pro.
A proposed Colorado River drought plan that will cost well over $100 million is just the beginning of what’s needed to protect the over-allocated river, says Bruce Babbitt, the former governor who rammed through Arizona’s last big water legislation nearly four decades ago. After Gov. Doug Ducey urged legislators to “do the heavy lifting” and pass the proposed drought-contingency plan for the Colorado, Babbitt said Monday that authorities will have to start discussing a much longer-term plan immediately after it’s approved.
Following one of the hottest and driest years on record, the Colorado River and its tributaries throughout the western U.S. are likely headed for another year of low water. That’s according to a new analysis by the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado Boulder. Researcher Jeff Lukas, who authored the briefing, says water managers throughout the Colorado River watershed should brace themselves for diminished streams and the decreasing likelihood of filling the reservoirs left depleted at the end of 2018.
Arizona legislators and staff are attending closed-door primers on water policy in advance of a critical January 31 federal deadline for the state to approve the Drought Contingency Plan. The first of three meetings occurred on Friday afternoon and lasted two and a half hours. The session was led by Central Arizona Project general manager Ted Cooke and Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.
As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water may be cut off.
Everywhere you look new homes, hotels and master-planned developments are appearing. It is wise to ask whether we have enough water for these future desert residents and visitors. Permits for new projects are under the jurisdiction of cities or the county — not under the purview of water agencies. Water agencies are tasked with supplying the water. Balancing growth and water supplies is nothing new to desert communities. It has always been a fact of life in our desert and is one of Desert Water Agency’s most important responsibilities.
The Colorado River may not look like it, but it’s one of the world’s largest banks. The river is not only the source of much of the American West’s economic productivity – San Diego, Phoenix and Denver would hardly exist without it – but its water is now the central commodity in a complex accounting system used by major farmers and entire states. … This month, the nation’s largest water agency, the Metropolitan Water District, began what amounts to a run on the bank.
Up against a federal deadline to approve a Colorado River drought plan — a “generational change” in Arizona water management — four key legislators say they’re optimistic they’ll meet it. Led by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa Republican, they see the Legislature as ready — finally — to officially endorse the plan. That’s even though competing water interest groups still have highly visible disagreements about it.
With a federal deadline to sign a Colorado River drought deal three weeks away, Arizona water managers are still grappling with several unresolved issues that could get in the way of finishing an agreement. The outstanding issues, some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’ concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to pump more groundwater.
In a 5-3 vote Wednesday that — intriguingly — fell along gender lines, the Phoenix City Council approved an increase in water rates, starting next month. “I thank the women to have the leadership and courage to do the right thing. 5-3,” Interim Mayor Thelda Williams said. … Wednesday’s vote overturned the council’s previous rejection of the proposed increase, on December 12, that was also 5-3.
First, the good news: The negotiators of Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan have crafted the most detailed, concrete proposal to date laying out how Arizona will deal with expected cutbacks to its supply of Colorado River. Now, the bad: The partial shutdown of the federal government is squeezing these negotiators.
Gov. Doug Ducey used his second inaugural speech Monday to exhort lawmakers and others with a claim to Colorado River water to approve a drought contingency plan before a solution is imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s simple: Arizona and our neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado River than Mother Nature puts back,” the governor told his audience. “And with critical shortfall imminent, we cannot kick the can any further.”
At Monday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Water District’s Planning & Stewardship Committee, officials said that with no Drought Contingency Plan in place (Arizona being the hold out), they are beginning to draw down their storage in Lake Mead. “If there is no Drought Contingency Plan, we don’t want to leave potentially half a million acre-feet or more locked up in Lake Mead if we go into shortage,” said General Manager Jeff Kightlinger.
A team of researchers concludes that the ongoing drought across the western U.S. rivals most past “megadroughts” dating as far back as 800 A.D. — and that the region is currently in a megadrought. Using tree ring data as a proxy for drought conditions, the researchers say the current drought ranks fourth worst among comparable 19-year periods of megadroughts of the past 1,200 years.
Southern Nevadans will see few noticeable consequences from a soon-to-be-finalized drought contingency plan for states that get most of their water supply from the Colorado River, according to a Southern Nevada water resources expert.
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:
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. Catch up on these stories and more in Western Water Year in Review.
Colorado River water managers were supposed to finish drought contingency plans by the end of the year. As it looks now, they’ll miss that deadline. If the states fail to do their job, the federal government could step in. Luke Runyon, a reporter with KUNC who covers on the Colorado River Basin recaps what’s been happening and why it’s so important.
It has been called speculative, foolhardy and overly expensive, but Aaron Million’s plan to pump water from the Utah-Wyoming border to Colorado’s Front Range just won’t dry up. Now seeking water rights from the Green River in Utah for a new version of his plan, Million thinks he has fashioned a winning proposal to feed Colorado’s thirsty, growing population.
A handful of environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to halt construction on an expansion of Gross Dam in the Boulder County foothills. Denver Water is proposing to increase the dam’s height by more than 130 feet to store more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters in the reservoir. The suit filed in Denver’s U.S. District Court alleges the construction project would negatively affect the Colorado River, harming native, endangered fish.
As stakeholders labor to nail down effective and durable drought contingency plans for the Colorado River Basin, they face a stark reality: Scientific research is increasingly pointing to even drier, more challenging times ahead.
The latest sobering assessment landed the day after Thanksgiving, when U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment concluded that Earth’s climate is changing rapidly compared to the pace of natural variations that have occurred throughout its history, with greenhouse gas emissions largely the cause.
As stakeholders labor to nail down effective and durable drought contingency plans for the Colorado River Basin, they face a stark reality: Scientific research is increasingly pointing to even drier, more challenging times ahead. That reality could pose daunting challenges for Colorado River water managers and others who are already confronting the likelihood of near-term shortages, and looking ahead to longer-term concerns about the river’s sustainability. By Gary Pitzer in Western Water
In a story Dec. 13 about the Colorado River, The Associated Press erroneously reported the river’s mouth. The river empties into the Gulf of California, not the Gulf of Mexico. A corrected version of the story is below: Southwestern US states get Jan. 31 deadline for drought deal
On stage in a conference room at Las Vegas’s Caesars Palace, Keith Moses said coming to terms with the limits of the Colorado River is like losing a loved one. “It reminds me of the seven stages of grief,” Moses said. “Because I think we’ve been in denial for a long time.” Moses is vice chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, a group of four tribes near Parker, Arizona.
With the water level in Lake Mead hovering near a point that would trigger a first-ever official shortage on the Colorado River, representatives of California, Arizona and Nevada are trying to wrap up a plan to prevent the water situation from spiraling into a major crisis. The plan is formally called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
The head of the federal agency controlling the Colorado River said Thursday the U.S. government will impose unprecedented restrictions on water supplies to the seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the river unless everyone agrees by Jan. 31 on a plan to deal with an expected shortage in 2020.
Water managers from seven Southwestern states that depend on the Colorado River are close but haven’t finalized an unprecedented drought contingency plan they may have to enact in 2020. The federal government’s top water official, Brenda Burman, is expected to urge action Thursday at a Colorado River Water Users Association conference in Las Vegas where a pact was supposed to be signed.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday approved a plan for sharing Colorado River delivery cuts if a shortage is declared on the drought-depleted river. The vote by the district, which imports water to the Southland, represents another step in a years-long attempt to forge a shortage agreement among the seven states that depend on the Colorado for drinking and irrigation supplies.
The Imperial Irrigation District, which holds some of the oldest and largest rights to Colorado River water, on Monday tentatively agreed to a one-time contribution of up to 250,000 acre-feet of surplus water if needed to stave off shortages in Lake Mead. But they tacked on several last-minute conditions aimed at easing farmers’ fears of permanently losing water, and to force federal and state officials to guarantee funding for clean-up of the Salton Sea.
A property tax hike could be coming to Washington County, with water managers saying they need to increase revenues to cover the costs of developing new water resources for the St. George area, including the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline. … A public hearing on the plan is slated for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Washington County Water Conservancy District office.
With drought entering a second decade and reservoirs continuing to shrink, seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the overtaxed Colorado River for crop irrigation and drinking water had been expected to ink a crucial share-the-pain contingency plan by the end of 2018. They’re not going to make it — at least not in time for upcoming meetings in Las Vegas involving representatives from Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the U.S. government, officials say.
The agency that manages the Central Arizona Project canal signaled its support for the latest outline of a Colorado River drought plan on Thursday in a vote that could lay the groundwork for a deal aimed at preventing Lake Mead from reaching perilously low levels. … And with this vote behind them, Arizona water officials will now have the framework of a state plan in hand as they join other water managers from across the West in Las Vegas next week for the annual Colorado River Water Users Association conference, where federal officials have said they hope to wrap up a Drought Contingency Plan.
Arizona says it’s one step closer to figuring out how to divvy up water cuts as the supply from the Colorado River becomes more limited. Several Western states that rely on the river are working on drought plans. The federal government wants them done by the end of the year.
A state judge on Thursday turned down a powerful Imperial Valley farmer’s request for an injunction against his irrigation district to stop them from signing a major Colorado River conservation plan. Superior Court Judge L. Brooks Anderholt denied the motion by Michael Abatti and his attorneys, a court clerk told The Desert Sun.
Arizona’s water agencies, cities, farmers and tribes haven’t quite sealed a Colorado River deal. But they’re getting closer. The outline of a new compromise proposal emerged this week and was presented at a meeting on Thursday.
In a chapter dedicated to climate change effects in the southwest, climate scientists say “with very high confidence” that warm temperatures are reducing the water content of mountain snowpack and the flows of rivers and streams that depend on snowmelt. The chapter’s landing page features a photo of low water levels at the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead outside Las Vegas, Nevada, a near perfect symbol of the region’s ongoing water challenges.
A group of powerful Imperial Valley farmers and their irrigation district need to work together for the benefit of the region, according to Superior Court Judge L. Brooks Anderholt. He warned a fight between the two sides over rights to Colorado River water and the need to address a prolonged drought across the Southwest could spur action by Congress, or end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
A fierce local battle over water rights unfolding in a small Southern California courtroom Wednesday could threaten federal plans to replenish rapidly dwindling Colorado River water supplies. A third-generation farmer is seeking an injunction to block the Imperial Irrigation District from signing on to the seven-state compact. The hearing comes a day-and-a-half after the longtime general manager for the district, Kevin Kelley, announced he will retire at year’s end, though he could stay on as a consultant.
In the week following a controlled flood on the Colorado River, Mick Lovett saw lots of fat fish near Lees Ferry, about 15 miles down river from Glen Canyon Dam. The fishing was expected to be excellent in that stretch of the river after the four-day flood stirred up extra food for the fish, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Colorado River water managers have plenty to argue about. But there’s one thing on which nearly everyone who relies on the southwestern river can agree. The foundational document that divvies up the water — the Colorado River Compact — has some big flaws. Discussion on how to fix the compact’s problems is where that consensus breaks down, often with the invocation of one word: renegotiation.
The Latest on drought contingency plans being considered by states that rely on the Colorado River … Las Vegas-area water managers have become the first to advance a multi-state drought contingency plan that officials hope will ease the effects of Colorado River water shortages.
Octavia Patno and her mom, a federal hydraulic engineer, stood on a narrow walkway at the base of Glen Canyon Dam Monday morning, their heads covered with hard hats. The Colorado River flowed below. Red-rock canyon walls towered above. The dam’s hydropower turbines hummed.
The gap between Pinal County farmers and the Gila River Indians over how to protect the Colorado River and Lake Mead is far wider than the interstate highway separating their communities. … The Drought Contingency Plan’s goal is to reduce Arizona, Nevada and California’s take from the Colorado River over the next decade or so.
As the Colorado River Basin becomes drier and shortage conditions loom, one great variable remains: How much of the river’s water belongs to Native American tribes? Increasingly, tribes are pressing to have the importance of their water rights recognized and seeking the means to use them. An impending tribal water study should shed light on the issue as questions are raised about how to sustainably share water in an already overallocated Colorado River Basin.
As the Colorado River Basin becomes drier and shortage conditions loom, one great variable remains: How much of the river’s water belongs to Native American tribes?
Native Americans already use water from the Colorado River and its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including leasing it to non-Indian users. But some tribes aren’t using their full federal Indian reserved water right and others have water rights claims that have yet to be resolved. Combined, tribes have rights to more water than some states in the Colorado River Basin.
Water managers along the Colorado River are trying to figure out how to live with less. Climate change is growing the gap between the river’s supply, and the demands in the communities that rely on it, including seven western U.S. states and Mexico.
A public agency and a powerful farmer are gearing up for a high-stakes court battle to determine who owns the largest share of Colorado River water in the West, complicating the river’s future as seven western states scramble to avoid severe water shortages. There’s a long history of fighting over water in California’s Imperial Valley, which has a legal right to more than 1 trillion gallons of Colorado River water each year — twice as much as the rest of California, and as much as Arizona and Nevada combined.
Western Slope water managers have doubled down on their position that they will oppose federal legislation creating a new regulated pool of water to boost the falling level of Lake Powell unless Colorado adopts a policy that the pool should be filled only on a voluntary basis. … Water managers from Southern California to Wyoming are watching the ongoing debate because if Colorado can’t reach a consensus, an ongoing effort to establish a “drought contingency planning” program could falter.
Nearly a decade ago, Gabriel Lozada, a man with a wiry frame and waves of steel-gray hair who looks exactly like the mathematician he is, set out to answer what he thought was a relatively simple question: Could Utah’s proposed Lake Powell Pipeline — a plan to ferry Colorado River water to southern Utah — live up to the state’s rosy forecasts of growth and prosperity?