Topic: Nevada

Overview

Nevada

As adjacent Western states, California and Nevada share similar issues related to drought and limited water resources. Both states are participants in the 1922 Colorado River Compact and the 2003 and 2007 Quantification Settlement Agreements to allocate Colorado River deliveries. Also, about two-thirds of Lake Tahoe lies in California and one-third in Nevada, and the two states have formed a compact to work together on environmental goals for the lake.

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Tempe

Cocopah Tribe working to restore native plants, landscape on Colorado River

The Colorado River runs more than 1,400 miles starting as a trickle of snowmelt in northern Colorado. It becomes a roaring torrent as it cuts through canyons and five Western states. Now after more than a century of dam building and development along the river, it ends as a trickle again at the Arizona-Mexico border. The river was once the lifeblood of the Cocopah, or River People. The Cocopah Tribe has begun trying to return a sliver of that landscape to what it once was. On this day you hear the wind blowing and the traffic from Interstate 8 as cars and trucks cross the Arizona-California border less than a mile away. The Colorado River, or what’s left of it, meanders south to Mexico with hardly any sound. 

Aquafornia news Fox 5 - Las Vegas

Anthem Country Club expected to save 30,000,000 gallons of water a year with new changes

Anthem Country Club just replaced all 18 greens and fairways. That effort is expected to save around 30,000,000 gallons of water a year. … The course has been closed since last June to make the changes and just reopened last Friday. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is requiring golf courses to reduce their water budgets by 2024 or face a significant penalty. … A water savings of 30,000,000 gallons of water per year is equivalent to filling up 600,000 50-gallon bathtubs. If Anthem Country Club saved that much water a year for 30 years, the Southern Nevada Water Authority says that would about fill up the entire Luxor pyramid.

Aquafornia news KALW - San Francisco

One Planet: The future of the Colorado River

On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, we’re discussing the future of the Colorado River, one of the country’s most important sources of fresh water. Forty million people in seven states, 29 federally recognized tribes, and northern Mexico depend on the Colorado River, but it’s drying up fast. It could lose 50 percent of its flow by 2050 if temperatures continue to rise. The River also irrigates 5.5 million agricultural acres of land, including 15% of American agriculture and about 90% of the nation’s winter vegetables, according to Utah Water Resources. How is climate change affecting the flow of the Colorado River?

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Nevada toad in geothermal power fight gets endangered status

A tiny Nevada toad at the center of a legal battle over a geothermal power project has officially been declared an endangered species, after U.S. wildlife officials temporarily listed it on a rarely used emergency basis last spring. “This ruling makes final the listing of the Dixie Valley toad,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a formal rule published Friday in the Federal Register. The spectacled, quarter-sized amphibian “is currently at risk of extinction throughout its range primarily due to the approval and commencement of geothermal development,” the service said. Other threats to the toad include groundwater pumping, agriculture, climate change, disease and predation from bullfrogs. The temporary listing in April marked only the second time in 20 years the agency had taken such emergency action.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Monday Top of the Scroll: Feds announce plan for massive cuts in Colorado River deliveries

The Bureau of Reclamation is for the first time legally signaling its intent to make major cutbacks in water deliveries from Lake Powell to Lake Mead and the Lower River Basin to protect the reservoirs that are on the edge of collapse. In online presentations last week, the bureau said it’s working through a formal process that could lead to cutting deliveries from Powell by 2 million to 3 million acre-feet annually and possibly more. That could happen if states in the Lower River Basin — Arizona, California and Nevada — can’t reach agreement by Jan. 31 on how to slice their take from the river, the agency said. The bureau didn’t specify when cuts would begin or how they would be divided among states, saying those questions will be answered later. But “it means that we’re looking at unprecedented reductions in supplies.” 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news National Integrated Drought Information System

Blog: Western snow season 2022-23 preview: a look at water supplies and the winter outlook in 10 maps

It’s hard to overstate how crucial this snow season is for the western United States. Regions such as the West that receive a great deal of their precipitation in the form of snow face a number of challenges when snow droughts occur, including shrinking water supplies. And western water supplies are truly shrinking as some states are facing their second or third drought year in a row and a large part of the region is stuck in a 20+ year megadrought. Hanging over all of this is climate change–influenced aridification in the Southwest that is increasing evaporative demand, causing water supplies to dwindle from rising temperatures even when there is adequate precipitation.

Related Event:

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Opinion: The Colorado River won’t obey our rules

The Colorado River Compact is 100 years old. A University of Arizona conference and the upcoming Colorado River Water Users Association will mark the anniversary. But there’s no reason to celebrate. Twenty-two years into a drought and with reservoirs at all-time lows, the federal government may soon intervene in the states’ management of the river. The Compact has failed. Don’t blame the river. We need a new system that manages with the river and provides all users with fair shares. In 1922, the seven Colorado Basin states used an optimistic estimate of the river’s annual flow to allocate the waters. The states chose the biggest estimate because that made it easy to agree. Everyone could pretend the river could satisfy all anticipated demands. That was the first mistake.
-Written by Karl Flessa, an Arizona resident since 1977 and an emeritus professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona.

Aquafornia news Wired

Pliocene-like monsoons are returning to the American Southwest

For researchers seeking to understand the effects of climate change on the weather of the North American Southwest, the answer lies in traveling millions of years back in time on wings of wax—leaf wax. … When the plant dies, those waxes turn into dust that floats on the wind, then drifts down to form layers preserved in marine and terrestrial sediments. Trapped within those sediments is a timeline tracing pictures from prehistoric times: which vegetation flourished, or the intensity of the rainfall. … Monsoons today will likely follow the Pliocene pattern and intensify, but also expand their range in Southern California. … Monsoons will help with drought as the Southwest dries. But they will be stronger, dropping inches of rain in a short time and causing more frequent flooding.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

Monday Top of the Scroll: Colorado River users, facing historic uncertainty, are set to meet in Las Vegas next month

As Colorado River water users prepare to meet in Las Vegas next month, the reality they face is one of growing uncertainty with few simple options left on the negotiating table. The math is well understood: There are more demands for the river than there is water coming into its reservoirs.  But cutting back at the scale necessary — and on a voluntary basis — has proven painstakingly difficult this year as top officials from across the Colorado River watershed have failed to reach a settlement. If the cuts are inevitable based on physical realities, questions remain about what form they will take. Will they be voluntary? Mandatory? Both? And how would they be enforced?

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: The Colorado River Compact at 100

On November 24, 1922, representatives of the seven Colorado River basin states—Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming—gathered in Santa Fe, N.M., to sign the Colorado River Compact, cementing into law a regime for dividing the river’s water. Without exception, these men were newcomers to a region inhabited since time immemorial by Native American Tribes. Two of them represented states just a decade old, none represented states more than 75-years-old, and their purpose was to enable colonial settlers to establish a foothold through irrigation-driven economic development.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado lesser prairie chicken now a threatened species

Federal wildlife officials have declared the boom-or-bust lesser prairie chicken a threatened species in Colorado, and endangered in states to the south, a goal of a long environmental campaign but a disappointment to farmers who fear new restrictions. … Wildlife scientists and advocates say the bird is a leading indicator of healthy continuous grassland and prairies, and the species once ranged across nearly 100 million acres in the Southwest with a population possibly in the millions. It’s now limited to a range of a few million acres broken up by row crops, overgrazing and oil and gas development, with aerial surveys putting the population at 32,000 across five states. … With a threatened designation, farmers and ranchers are able to continue most land uses but face new reviews on significant changes. 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Monday Top of the Scroll: Drought has pushed 100-year-old Colorado River Compact to the brink

100 years ago, Wyoming signed onto a deal to divide the water that flows through the Colorado River basin among seven states. It’s based on a formula — one likely based on mistaken beliefs about the river itself — that did not award extra credit for living in the mountains where the snow piles up. Instead, the states signed a compact allocating the water where it would readily be put to work. It meant the more populated states of California, Colorado and Arizona would get the biggest shares. … But more than two decades into a punishing drought that climate scientists say will likely intensify with more warming, the system can no longer supply everything that some 40 million people in a warming and drying region desire from it, or that grocers nationwide sell from its verdant fields. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California winter looking like repeat of 2021 — dry and drought-plagued

As California enters a fourth year of drought, experts warn a likely drier-than-average winter means little relief for much of California and Nevada. Nearly 41% of California and 43% of Nevada is in extreme drought, according to the latest California-Nevada Adaptation Program report prepared by program manager Julie Kalansky. The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that over the last month drought conditions have not changed very much. There was little to no precipitation throughout the region to start off the water year in October, though a system of storms in early November moistened the landscape and brought some snow to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  So far 2022 has been California’s driest and Nevada’s 8th driest in nearly 130 years of recordkeeping.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Facing Colorado River shortage, 30 urban suppliers pledge to target decorative grass

With the federal government calling for major cuts in water use to address the historic shortage on the Colorado River, the leaders of 30 agencies that supply cities from the Rocky Mountains to Southern California have signed an agreement committing to boost conservation, in part by pledging to target the removal of one especially thirsty mainstay of suburban landscapes: decorative grass. The water agencies, which supply Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Santa Monica, Burbank, San Diego and other cities, have committed to a nonbinding list of actions, including creating a program to remove 30% of “nonfunctional” grass and replace it with “drought- and climate-resilient landscaping, while maintaining vital urban landscapes and tree canopies.”

Related article: 

Aquafornia news jfleck at inkstain

Blog: A century ago in Colorado River Compact negotiations: How much water to send past Lee’s Ferry?

Colorado River Commission Chairman Herbert Hoover gathered the seven states’ representatives at opened at 11:00 a.m. Nov. 15, 1922, for the 17th meeting in their efforts to forge an agreement to share the Colorado River. They had been holed up at Bishop’s Lodge outside Santa Fe for five days, wrestling with how to divide the river. By that point in the negotiations they had settled on a general framework, dividing the river into an “upper” and “lower” basin, but were stuck on the question of how much water the upper states would be required to send each year to the lower states. Hoover intentionally set a later starting time that day to give the upper river states plenty of time to caucus among themselves to consider his proposal from the previous day that the Upper Basin deliver 82 million acre-feet every ten years plus a 4 and ½ million acre foot minimum annual flow.

Aquafornia news Utah Public Radio

Las Vegas has strict outdoor water restrictions, with fines! Should Utah do the same?

Salvador Polanco-Gamez is a “water waste investigator” for the Las Vegas Valley Water District. It’s a government job where they are tasked with finding and enforcing violations of water waste under Nevada’s strict conservation laws. Those strict laws regulating water waste are working — southern Nevada recorded a 26% drop in water use since 2002 — and could become one possible path forward for Utah’s own efforts to save water and preserve the Great Salt Lake. Gamez and his fellow investigators are part of that water-saving success. “We look for water waste which is prohibited in southern Nevada,” he said. … Technically, any water that hits a gutter is considered “wasted.” The Southern Nevada Water Authority has mandatory restrictions on time of day, day of week and length of watering.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Grist

Drought looms over midterm elections in the arid West

Mark Kelly, the incumbent Democratic senator from Arizona, is facing a strong reelection challenge from far-right Republican nominee Blake Masters, in a race that could be key for control of the Senate. Last month, during a televised debate between the two candidates, Masters went on the attack, criticizing Kelly’s positions on several issues.  Toward the end of the debate, after skewering Kelly on inflation and the border, Masters hit him on a more niche issue: federal water cuts on the Colorado River. … it is no surprise that drought has emerged as a key issue in the region ahead of this week’s midterm elections. Senators and representatives in close races have talked about drought in debates and campaign ads …

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

In Nevada, a tribe and a toad halt a geothermal plant

After about a decade of grinding its way through the federal permitting process, Ormat, a geothermal company, was building a new power plant in Dixie Valley to produce renewable energy. … But soon came another legal snag. The company halted construction in August while federal agencies meet to discuss whether the project should move forward. The rugged, remote corner of Nevada’s Great Basin region found itself at the epicenter of a confrontation between some of President Biden’s, and the nation’s, most pressing priorities: renewable energy, wildlife conservation and Indigenous rights…. environmentalists and tribes are pressing the Biden administration to begin land and water protections at Dixie Valley and elsewhere. The administration’s decision could affect not just Ormat’s plans and this patch of Nevada but also projects and landscapes across the country.

Aquafornia news 8 News - Las Vegas

Government funds compete with small private ranches in southern Nevada

The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants other western water districts to conserve resources in the face of the region’s 20-year drought, saying it’s wasteful to grow certain water-intensive crops in parched desert landscapes. But records show the agency is not heeding its own advice. … The Imperial Irrigation District gets more Colorado River water than the entirety of Nevada and Arizona combined. This is why Nevada water officials have urged changes in how water from the troubled river is used. … The Great Basin Ranch, as it’s known, is owned and operated by a public agency — the Southern Nevada Water Authority. And the only crop that is grown on that land? Alfalfa. 8,600 tons of it last year alone.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: New push to shore up shrinking Colorado River could reduce water flow to California

With the nation’s two largest reservoirs continuing to decline, federal officials announced plans Friday to revise their current rules for dealing with Colorado River shortages and pursue a new agreement to achieve larger reductions in water use throughout the Southwest. The Biden administration announcement represents a renewed push to scale back water use along a river that has shrunk significantly in the face of a 23-year megadrought worsened by global warming. With water levels dropping at Lake Powell, the Interior Department said operators of Glen Canyon Dam may need to release less water, which would affect flows in the Grand Canyon and accelerate the decline of Lake Mead. 

Related articles: 

As Drought Shrinks the Colorado River, A SoCal Giant Seeks Help from River Partners to Fortify its Local Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Metropolitan Water District's wastewater recycling project draws support from Arizona and Nevada, which hope to gain a share of Metropolitan's river supply

Metropolitan Water District's advanced water treatment demonstration plant in Carson. Momentum is building for a unique interstate deal that aims to transform wastewater from Southern California homes and business into relief for the stressed Colorado River. The collaborative effort to add resiliency to a river suffering from overuse, drought and climate change is being shaped across state lines by some of the West’s largest water agencies.  

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139

As Climate Change Turns Up The Heat in Las Vegas, Water Managers Try to Wring New Savings to Stretch Supply
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Rising temperatures are expected to drive up water demand as historic drought in the Colorado River Basin imperils Southern Nevada’s key water source

Las Vegas has reduced its water consumption even as its population has increased. Las Vegas, known for its searing summertime heat and glitzy casino fountains, is projected to get even hotter in the coming years as climate change intensifies. As temperatures rise, possibly as much as 10 degrees by end of the century, according to some models, water demand for the desert community is expected to spike. That is not good news in a fast-growing region that depends largely on a limited supply of water from an already drought-stressed Colorado River.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour. 

With Drought Plan in Place, Colorado River Stakeholders Face Even Tougher Talks Ahead On The River’s Future
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Talks are about to begin on a potentially sweeping agreement that could reimagine how the Colorado River is managed

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, shows the effects of nearly two decades of drought. Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.

Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139

Domino Effect: As Arizona Searches For a Unifying Voice, a Drought Plan for the Lower Colorado River Is Stalled
EDITOR'S NOTE: Finding solutions to the Colorado River — or any disputed river —may be the most important role anyone can play

Nowhere is the domino effect in Western water policy played out more than on the Colorado River, and specifically when it involves the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona. We are seeing that play out now as the three states strive to forge a Drought Contingency Plan. Yet that plan can’t be finalized until Arizona finds a unifying voice between its major water players, an effort you can read more about in the latest in-depth article of Western Water.

Even then, there are some issues to resolve just within California.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Colorado River Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

As Colorado River Levels Drop, Pressure Grows On Arizona To Complete A Plan For Water Shortages
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: A dispute over who speaks for Arizona has stalled work with California, Nevada on Drought Contingency Plan

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

It’s high-stakes time in Arizona. The state that depends on the Colorado River to help supply its cities and farms — and is first in line to absorb a shortage — is seeking a unified plan for water supply management to join its Lower Basin neighbors, California and Nevada, in a coordinated plan to preserve water levels in Lake Mead before they run too low.

If the lake’s elevation falls below 1,075 feet above sea level, the secretary of the Interior would declare a shortage and Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water would be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet. Arizona says that’s enough to serve about 1 million households in one year.

Tour

Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Western Water Magazine

The Colorado River: Living with Risk, Avoiding Curtailment
Fall 2017

This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water managers and others are trying to face the future. 

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Maps & Posters

Carson River Basin Map
Published 2006

A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and its link to the Truckee River. The map includes Lahontan Dam and Reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin. Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin Area Office.

Maps & Posters

Truckee River Basin Map
Published 2005

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many of these issues. 

Maps & Posters

Nevada Water Map
Published 2004

This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, illustrates the water resources available for Nevada cities, agriculture and the environment. It features natural and manmade water resources throughout the state, including the Truckee and Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake and the course of the Colorado River that forms the state’s eastern boundary.

Maps & Posters Colorado River Bundle

Colorado River Basin Map
Redesigned in 2017

Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the country of Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for urban growth and expected climate change impacts.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water
Published 2006

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada. It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and today’s water supply challenges.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River
Updated 2018

Cover page for the Layperson's Guide to the Colorado River .

The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000 square miles in the southwestern United States. 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.

Western Water Magazine

An Era of New Partnerships on the Colorado River
November/December 2013

This printed issue of Western Water examines how the various stakeholders have begun working together to meet the planning challenges for the Colorado River Basin, including agreements with Mexico, increased use of conservation and water marketing, and the goal of accomplishing binational environmental restoration and water-sharing programs.

Western Water Magazine

Remnants of the Past: Management Challenges of Terminal Lakes
January/February 2005

This issue of Western Water examines the challenges facing state, federal and tribal officials and other stakeholders as they work to manage terminal lakes. It includes background information on the formation of these lakes, and overviews of the water quality, habitat and political issues surrounding these distinctive bodies of water. Much of the information in this article originated at the September 2004 StateManagement Issues at Terminal Water Bodies/Closed Basins conference.