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 High Plains Public Radio

Another dry year on the Colorado River could force states, feds back to negotiating table

Colorado River water managers could be pulled back to the negotiating table as soon as next year to keep its biggest reservoirs from declining further. The 2019 Drought Contingency Plan was meant to give the U.S. and Mexican states that depend on the river a roadmap to manage water shortages. That plan requires the river’s biggest reservoir, Lake Mead, to drop to unprecedented levels before conservation among all the lower basin states — Arizona, Nevada and California — becomes mandatory. California isn’t required to conserve water in the reservoir until it drops to an elevation of 1,045 feet above sea level.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Opinion: Can California start taking droughts seriously, please?

Drought may be the sneakiest of natural disasters. Although human history teems with people engulfed by abrupt aridity — the Akkadians of four millenniums ago, the Maya in the ninth and 10th centuries A.D., the Great Plains farmers of the 1930s — even today drought is a poorly appreciated phenomenon. … The American West is once again facing drought, one of the worst on record. Across a vast region encompassing nine states and home to nearly 60 million people, the earth is being wrung dry. 
-Written by Farhad Manjoo, NY Times opinion columnist.

Aquafornia news NPR

Heat wave unleashes record-high temps from California to Great Plains

It might be tempting to shrug at the scorching weather across large swaths of the West. This just in: It gets hot in the summer. But this record-setting heat wave’s remarkable power, size and unusually early appearance is giving meteorologists and climate experts yet more cause for concern about the routinization of extreme weather in an era of climate change. These sprawling, persistent high-pressure zones popularly called “heat domes” are relatively common in later summer months. This current system is different.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

If Lake Powell’s water levels keep falling, a multi-state reservoir release may be needed

Lake Powell’s water level is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the latest 24-month projections from the Arizona and Utah reservoir show that it’s likely to drop even further — below a critical threshold of 3,525 feet by next year. A 20-year megadrought and a hotter climate has contributed to shrinking water supplies in the Colorado River. If Lake Powell’s levels continue to dwindle, it could set off litigation between the seven states and the 40 million people that all rely on the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news ABC News

Las Vegas weighs tying growth to conservation amid drought

Record-breaking heat and historic drought in the U.S. West are doing little to discourage cities from planning to welcome millions of new residents in the decades ahead. From Phoenix to Boise, officials are preparing for a future both with more people and less water, seeking to balance growth and conservation. Development is constrained by the fact that 46% of the 11-state Western region is federal land, managed by agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management that are tasked with maintaining it for future generations.

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Aquafornia news Vox

2021 wildfire forecasts for the western US: heat, drought, uncertainty

Summer has not officially started yet, but wildfire season has already arrived in the US. Now an intense heat wave coupled with extreme drought is threatening to make things worse. Large wildfires have already burned 981,000 acres this year to date, more than the 766,000 acres burned by the same time last year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. In Arizona, more than 208,000 acres have burned, sending smoke into Colorado.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation names Carly Jerla to lead effort for updated Colorado River operating guidelines

The Bureau of Reclamation announced that Carly Jerla will lead the Department of the Interior’s efforts, as a senior water resources program manager, to develop updated operating rules for Colorado River reservoirs. The Colorado River sustains ecosystems and economies across the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. A number of operating rules and agreements within the United States and with the Republic of Mexico expire at the end of 2025.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Climate change batters the West before summer even begins

A heat dome is baking Arizona and Nevada, … At Lake Mead, which supplies water for 25 million people in three southwestern states and Mexico, water levels have plunged to their lowest point since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s. In California, farmers are abandoning their thirstiest crops to save others, and communities are debating whether to ration tap water….And it’s not even summer yet.

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun News

Editorial: Grounded leadership needed in region brimming with water tensions

As the Southwest prepares for what’s forecast to be another mercilessly hot and dry summer, tensions over water scarcity are rising like the mercury. Farmers are facing bleak growing seasons and the possibility of farm failures in several areas due to cutbacks in water allocations for irrigation, creating friction between the ag community and cities on the dwindling water supply in the region. Rural communities in Nevada and elsewhere, already wary of incursions by urban areas into their water supplies, are on high alert as the water crisis deepens.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Shocking water news in Arizona, Tucson should lead to more action

The problem, as always, is that water keeps flowing from the tap. Every other indicator is telling us we should be in red alert right now about Arizona’s climate and water situation. But when we turn the valve, even on these blazing days, drinkable water flows. It’s a luxury in this season and this place. And it makes it easy to turn away from the news. But we shouldn’t. 
-Written by Tim Steller.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Some Arizona golf courses oppose a state plan for cutting water use

Managers of some Arizona golf courses are fighting a plan that would cut water use at a time when the state is being forced to confront shrinking water supplies. A group representing golf courses has been pushing back against a proposal by state officials that would reduce overall water use on courses, instead offering a plan that would entail less conservation. Opposition to the state’s proposal for golf courses has emerged over the past several months, aired in sometimes-tense virtual meetings …

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: California heat wave heightens drought and fire fears

With a worsening drought gripping the West and wildfire season looming, California is bracing for the most severe heat wave of the year — one that promises to tax the state’s power supplies while also offering a grim preview of challenging months to come. The heat wave will bring triple-digit temperatures to the valleys and inland regions of Southern California as well as many parts of the rest of the state, heightening fire risks. It comes as parts of Northern and Central California are turning to water restrictions as the drought rapidly alters the landscape.

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Aquafornia news NBC News

The West is the driest it’s been in 1,200 years – raising questions about a livable future

Water is increasingly scarce in the Western U.S. — where 72 percent of the region is in “severe” drought, 26 percent is in exceptional drought, and populations are booming. Insufficient monsoon rains last summer and low snowpacks over the winter left states like Arizona, Utah and Nevada without the typical amount of water they need, and forecasts for the rainy summer season don’t show promise. … The past two decades have been the driest or the second driest in the last 1,200 years in the West, posing existential questions about how to secure a livable future in the region.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Lake Mead declines to new low as Colorado River crisis deepens

Lake Mead has declined to its lowest level since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s following the construction of Hoover Dam, marking a new milestone for the water-starved Colorado River in a downward spiral that shows no sign of letting up. The reservoir near Las Vegas holds water for cities, farms and tribal lands in Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. Years of unrelenting drought and temperatures pushed higher by climate change are shrinking the flow into the lake, contributing to the large mismatch between the demands for water and the Colorado’s diminishing supply.

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Aquafornia news CNN

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead to reach lowest levels in decades as drought grips the region

A crippling drought in the western US is dropping the water level at Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam to a historically low level, putting pressure on the region’s drinking water supply and the dam’s electric capacity. By Thursday, Lake Mead’s water level is expected to sink to the lowest it’s been since it began filling during construction of the Hoover Dam, according to Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Patricia Aaron.

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Aquafornia news Nevada Independent

With new law, Las Vegas water agency bets on ‘aggressive municipal water conservation measure’ to remove decorative turf, conserve Colorado River supply

With Lake Mead approaching critically-low levels, the Southern Nevada Water Authority recently turned to the Legislature to double-down on its existing strategy for using less water: turf removal. … [Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager John] Entsminger, in a recent interview, said the prohibition would result in significant water savings. The removal of an estimated 3,900 acres of decorative turf could save roughly 9.3 billion gallons of water annually — about 10 percent of the state’s entire Colorado River allotment.

Aquafornia news KRQE News 13

As drought grips western U.S. cuts to water supply expected

A punishing drought is gripping much of the western U.S. Scientists are calling it a “mega-drought” brought on by climate change. It’s taking a dramatic toll on the Colorado River system that provides water to 40 million people in seven states. For more than eight decades, the Hoover Dam has relied on water from Nevada’s Lake Mead to cover up its backside. But now at age 85 it finds itself uncomfortably exposed. Much of the water the dam is supposed to be holding back is gone.

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Aquafornia news Lake County News

Why upcoming storms may do more harm than good in West

Storms from the Pacific set to swing into the rain-starved West Coast this week may end up turning detrimental, AccuWeather forecasters say, by whipping up gusty winds and heightening the risk of lightning-induced wildfires. With over 87% of the Western states in moderate to exceptional drought, the news of Pacific storms poised to sweep onshore may sound good on the surface. However, the pattern will be a double-edged sword. Each storm is expected to arrive with “very limited moisture,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. 

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Las Vegas’s new strategy for tackling drought – banning ‘useless grass’

In Sin City, one thing that will soon become unforgivable is useless grass. A new Nevada law will outlaw about 40% of the grass in the Las Vegas area in an effort to conserve water amid a drought that is drying up the region’s primary water source: the Colorado River. Other cities and states around the US have enacted temporary bans on lawns that must be watered, but legislation signed Friday by the state’s governor, Steve Sisolak, makes Nevada the first in the nation to enact a permanent ban on certain categories of grass.

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Aquafornia news CBS News

“Mega-drought” takes dramatic toll on Colorado River system that provides water to 40 million people 

Drought is taking a dramatic toll on the Colorado River system that provides water to 40 million people in seven states – and may force the federal government to make a drastic and historic decision. For more than eight decades, the iconic Hoover Dam has relied on water from Nevada’s Lake Mead to cover up its backside. But now, at age 85, it finds itself uncomfortably exposed. Much of the water the dam is supposed to be holding back is gone.

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Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Drought in Arizona worst in 126 years

Arizona and other Western states just lived through the driest year in more than a century, with no drought relief in sight in the near future, experts told a House panel last week. The period from April 2020 to March 2021 was the driest in the last 126 years for Arizona and other Western states, witnesses said. It capped a two-decade stretch that was the driest in more than 100 years that records have been kept – and one of the driest in the past 1,200 years based on paleohydrology evidence, one official said.

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Aquafornia news SF Gate

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: The numbers California’s drought manager wants you to see

With California’s rivers running low after two consecutive dry winters, state officials and local water agencies have pumped out a steady stream of drought declarations and calls for water conservation in recent weeks. It’s clear the Golden State is in a drought and it could escalate to a crisis, but, you may be wondering, just how bad is it?

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Aquafornia news PBS

2021 could be one of the driest years in a millennium, and there’s no relief in sight

Nearly half of the country — from the Pacific coast to the Great Plains and upper Midwest — is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions. That’s expected to get worse throughout the summer. … UCLA climatologist Park Williams: “This drought is far from over. 2021 is shaping up to potentially be the driest of all of the drought years in the last century, and definitely one of the driest of the last millennium.”

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Aquafornia news Idaho Falls Post Register

Opinion: When will major push to desalinate water in American Southwest begin?

As reality plays out, I continue to read how the drought in the American West is causing levels in Lake’s Mead and Powell to plummet. I also continue to see no action or accountability to take bold action to resolve the issue as uncontrolled development continues in the greater Phoenix and Las Vegas areas. … There are 17 desalination plants operating in California and the one in Carlsbad — the Claude Bud Lewis Desalination Plant — is the largest in the U.S. 
-Written by R.B. Provencher, a former manager for the U.S. Department of Energy and retired in Idaho Falls.

Aquafornia news Sierra Nevada Ally

Nevada resolution to protect swamp cedars reverberates across Indian Country

Assembly Joint Resolution 4 passed both houses of the Nevada Legislature. The resolution now urges Congress and the President to protect certain land containing swamp cedar trees in Spring Valley, Nevada by designating the site a national monument or expanding the Great Basin National Park to include the area. 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Mississippi River pipeline won’t save Arizona. But these ideas might

Every time I write about water, I get a similar email from different folks. It argues that if we can build pipelines to move oil, we should be able to capture and pipe enough floodwater from the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Snake or (insert your river here) to resolve shortages on the Colorado River. I appreciate the big thinking. But I wish we could move past this idea. Because we’ve studied this before, in multiple iterations. Each solution has been projected to cost multiple billions of dollars. Most would not produce enough water to fix our problems. And trust me, someone’s going to fight several hundred miles of pipe being laid across their land to make this happen. 
-Written by Joanna Allhands, an Arizona Republic columnist.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun

Editorial: With plan to quench its thirst for vanity, Utah thumbs its nose at dry neighbors

On the federal government’s drought map, the hardest-hit areas — the driest of the dry — are shaded in crimson red. Looking at the current map, the coloring makes it appear that someone plunged a knife into Southern Nevada, and blood flowed to portions of California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and even Texas. One glance at this map and any reasonable person would understand that the region needs to take its water conservation efforts up several notches.

Aquafornia news Desert Research Institute

New research: Does cold wildfire smoke contribute to water repellent soils in burned areas?

After a wildfire, soils in burned areas often become water repellent, leading to increased erosion and flooding after rainfall events – a phenomenon that many scientists have attributed to smoke and heat-induced changes in soil chemistry. But this post-fire water repellency may also be caused by wildfire smoke in the absence of heat, according to a new paper from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Nevada.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Congress seeks long-term solutions for drought crippling Western US

A crippling drought — largely connected to climate change — is gripping the Western United States, affecting over 70 million people and around 40% of the U.S.  … Farmers, scientists, tribal officials, foresters and other groups affected by the worsening drought testified at a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife hearing on Tuesday, asking lawmakers for both short-term relief and long-term solutions from the worsening conditions.

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Aquafornia news Cronkite News - Arizona PBS

Arizona’s current historic drought may be ‘baseline for the future’

Arizona and other Western states just lived through the driest year in more than a century, with no drought relief in sight in the near future, experts told a House panel Tuesday. The period from last April to this March was the driest in the last 126 years for Arizona and other Western states, witnesses said. It caps a two-decade stretch that was the driest in more than 100 years that records have been kept – and one of the driest in the past 1,200 years based on paleohydrology evidence, one official said.

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Aquafornia news KJZZ

Bureau of Reclamation has already studied Mississippi pipeline

The Arizona Legislature wants to look into the feasibility of pumping water from the Mississippi River to Arizona. But the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has already studied the idea, and weighed in on the project in 2012. The agency studied factors such as cost, legal issues, power use and the amount of time the project would take. A report estimated the project could cost up to $14 billion; the timetable was around 30 years. 

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Aquafornia news Sierra Nevada Ally

Opinion: Is the non-functional turf ban coming to northern Nevada

The 2021 legislative session is an anomaly. Notwithstanding COVID, the bad water bills died early and the good ones pressed on. That is not the norm. But it appears that more folks are beginning to believe these are not normal times.  Indeed, this year is different. Long-time foes are singing kumbaya in praise of AB356.  The legislation, which passed both chambers, saves 10 billion gallons of water annually in Southern Nevada –– defending the dwindling supply of Colorado River water by mandating the removal of all non-functional turf by 2027 in Southern Nevada.
-Written by Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network.  

Aquafornia news Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Overnight releases will be reduced from Davis Dam as part of ongoing collaborative effort to decrease nuisance caddisfly population

Beginning next week, the Bureau of Reclamation plans to reduce overnight releases from Davis Dam on selected dates in an attempt to decrease the local caddisfly population – following a request from the cities of Laughlin, Nevada and Bullhead City, Arizona. The reduced flows along the river reach below Davis Dam will help with an ongoing pest abatement study being conducted by the downstream communities to combat this nuisance species that negatively impacts businesses and visitors to the area.

Aquafornia news Arizona News

Arizona Legislature proposes pumping Mississippi River water to help with drought

Arizona’s drought has lawmakers looking into drawing water from the Mississippi River to be used here in the desert. “This kind of project would be looking 20 years down the road,” said Republican Rep. Tim Dunn from Yuma. Dunn sponsored House Concurrent Memorial 2004, which got bipartisan support in the Arizona legislature, and urges Congress to study a plan for a pipeline that would take water out of the Mississippi River near Davenport, Iowa. 

Aquafornia news ABC 15

Arizona’s continuing population growth puts pressure on water supply

Millions of people are betting on Arizona. They’re buying homes, starting businesses, and families. The future of how we use our water resources may dictate the future of their success. … That question was addressed four decades earlier with the Groundwater Management Act of 1980. The idea was the law would ensure when water was taken out, just as much was put back in, creating what they called a safe yield goal by 2025. Unfortunately, a new study released by ASU researchers with the Kyl Center shows the law is not living up to its promise as deep, thousands of years old aquifers continue to be over-pumped.

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Aquafornia news KJZZ

Arizona lawmakers float idea of piping water from the Mississippi

The drought has some members of the Arizona Legislature wondering if the state should look for a new source of water: the Mississippi River. Conservationists wonder if lawmakers should try a different approach. As Arizona braces for a drought contingency plan to kick in, the Legislature has floated the idea of damming the Mississippi and piping the water here. The idea received overwhelming support among lawmakers, though it is unclear if the project is viable. Sandy Bahr, with the Sierra Club, told KJZZ’s The Show last month the state needs to adjust its thinking about water, especially in times of drought.

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Aquafornia news Law Week Colorado

9th Circuit rebukes U.S. on Native interests in Colorado River rights

A federal appeals court has rebuked the U.S. government for failing to properly consider the interest of Native American nations in developing allocation guidelines for the Colorado River Basin’s waters and ordered it to prioritize obligations assumed when it signed a treaty with the Navajo Nation in 1868. The April 28 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may boost Native American negotiating clout as the basin’s states ponder how to address impacts of ongoing drought in the region.

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

La Niña weather pattern relaxes, bringing global implications

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Thursday that a key weather feature that affects global temperature and precipitation has shifted into a “neutral,” or average, state. La Niña, one of the factors behind last year’s extremely active Atlantic hurricane season and a contributor to below-average rainfall in the South and Southwest, has faded away….In California, any drought relief associated with the end of La Niña won’t come during the dry season that runs well into next fall.

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Aquafornia news Cronkite News - Arizona PBS

Researchers spelunk the Grand Canyon to document its beautiful, confounding springs

Ben Tobin has questions about the Grand Canyon’s caves. The University of Kentucky geologist started learning about caves as a young man, in part because his mother was a geologist, and a childhood fascination grew over time. … When he was in college, an internship in Arkansas doing cave tours got him hooked, and eventually his work brought him out West, to Grand Canyon National Park. Tobin specializes in what’s known as karst hydrology. These are underground systems made up of soluble rock such as limestone. To Tobin, caves are like another world, with blind animals, fossils and archeological finds. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to register for next week’s Lower Colorado River Tour

Only one week remains to register for our May 20 virtual Lower Colorado River Tour where you can hear directly from experts offering a range of perspectives on the most contested and meticulously managed river in the United States. Practically every drop of water in the Colorado River is already allocated, but pressure on the hard-working river continues to grow from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat and climate change.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California’s unusually dry winter could be the new normal, according to decades of data

As Californians can tell by the already beige hills, the early fire weather warnings and the dusty umbrellas sitting deep inside closets, it’s been drier than usual this winter. And according to decades worth of precipitation data, that’s the new normal. What’s considered “normal” for baseline rainfall amounts is determined by a 30-year average that gets recalculated every decade. The latest recalculation, according to Jan Null, a forecaster who runs Golden Gate Weather Services, “show a noticeably drier state” through 2020 compared to the previous “normal” calculation covering 1981 through 2010. 

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Aquafornia news Nevada Independent

Microplastics are everywhere. A Nevada researcher wants to know how they spread.

Tiny specks of degraded plastics have been documented in the snowpack around Lake Tahoe — and in the lake itself. They have been found in the Las Vegas Wash. The phenomenon is not unique to Nevada. Microplastics, the end product of our plastic consumption, have been found in ecosystems across the world, even in remote areas. Microplastics are small — less than 5 millimeters — but they are not uniform. They can have different shapes and vary in size. Microplastics from clothing can appear as synthetic fibers, whereas degraded plastic from bags or water bottles might take on a different composition.

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

Extremely dry conditions spill across the American West

Spring is generally a time of renewal for the watersheds of the western United States. Warmed by the lengthening days, the region’s towering mountain ranges shed their mantle of snow, releasing freshets of water into welcoming streams and reservoirs. This year, though, the cycle is in disarray. Outside of the Olympic and Cascade ranges of Washington state, winter snows were subpar. The spring melt has been a dud. From the Klamath to the Colorado and Rio Grande, watersheds are under stress once again, and water managers face difficult tradeoffs between farms, fisheries, and at-home uses. 

Aquafornia news Havasu News

Arizona looks to Mississippi River to soothe water shortage

Arizona legislators are looking eastward to ease the impact of a two-decade drought in the Colorado River Basin. According to Arizona Rep. Tim Dunn, who represents the area of Yuma, the Legislature is asking Congress to fund a technological and feasibility study for diverting floodwater from the Mississippi River to replenish the Colorado River. Whether that comes in the form of a diversion dam or pipeline, Dunn says the plan would benefit both the Midwestern and Southwestern United States.

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Aquafornia news Mongabay

Humanity’s challenge of the century: Conserving Earth’s freshwater systems

Many dryland cities like Los Angeles, Cairo and Tehran have already outstripped natural water recharge, but are expected to continue growing, resulting in a deepening arid urban water crisis. … The situations in arid and semi-arid cities like Phoenix, Arizona; Bamako, Mali; or Dubai, UAE, differ in their particulars, but rhyme in their impending disastrous trajectory. These, and other arid-region cities, are approaching the edge of an ecological cliff: dependent on sustaining growth, which itself requires a growth in water supplied by faraway and finite sources, and delivered by aging infrastructure. But water in dryland regions is getting scarcer and supplies more unpredictable. 

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Don’t expect Miracle May this month on the Colorado River

The Colorado River Basin appears to be out of miracles this spring. Five years after a “Miracle May” of record rainfall staved off what had appeared to be the river’s first imminent shortage in water deliveries, the hope for another in 2021 “is fading quickly,” says the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s latest report, released Thursday. That’s one more piece of bad news for the Central Arizona Project. A first-time shortage is now likely to slash deliveries of river water to Central Arizona farmers starting in 2022 but won’t affect drinking water supplies for Tucson, Phoenix and other cities, or for tribes and industries that get CAP water.

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Aquafornia news The Conversation

Wildfires are contaminating drinking water systems, and it’s more widespread than people realize

More than 58,000 fires scorched the United States last year, and 2021 is on track to be even drier. What many people don’t realize is that these wildfires can do lasting damage beyond the reach of the flames – they can contaminate entire drinking water systems with carcinogens that last for months after the blaze. … Since 2017, multiple fires have impacted drinking water systems … including the CZU Lightning Complex, Camp and Tubbs fires in California. Thousands of private wells have been affected too.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Basin River Forecast Center

Report: Colorado basin river forecast

Early May water supply volume forecasts are below to much below normal throughout the Colorado River Basin and Great Basin. Upper Colorado River Basin water supply forecasts range between 15-75% of the 1981-2010 historical April-July average. Great Basin water supply forecasts are 10-70% of average. … Many April-July volume forecasts fall in the bottom (driest) five on record….The Lake Powell inflow forecast is 2.0 MAF (28% of average), a 17% decrease from April….

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Hear experts address impact of two-decade drought on Lower Colorado River Tour

Hear directly from a range of experts offering a variety of perspectives on our May 20 virtual Lower Colorado River Tour as they put into context the 20-plus year drought on what is the most contested and meticulously managed river in the United States. Among the experts featured are farmers, tribal representatives, and managers from wildlife agencies, water districts, the Bureau of Reclamation and others who will discuss drought impacts, habitat projects, farming and restoration efforts at the Salton Sea.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: ‘New normal’ for U.S. climate is officially hotter – and experts see trouble for California

The official “new normal” for the U.S. climate is warmer than ever before — and the changes are ominous for California, experts say. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday released its new climate averages, based on the 30-year period from 1991 to 2020. The averages, known as “climate normals,” are updated every 10 years, and they show most of the country, including California, heating up. “The influence of long-term global warming is obvious,” the NOAA said in announcing the updates to its averages. 

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Aquafornia news Grist

Western tribes already lacked water access. Now there’s a megadrought.

In 2021, access to running water and clean drinking water is a given for most Americans. The Census Bureau has even considered dropping a question on plumbing access from the U.S. census questionnaire. But many of the nation’s tribes still lack running water, access to clean water, and even flushing toilets. Native American households are 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing, according to the U.S. Water Alliance, and more likely to lack piped water services than any other racial group. That problem is at an inflection point for the Navajo Nation and 29 other tribes in the Colorado River Basin, which stretches from the Rocky Mountains to Mexico.

Aquafornia news White Mountain Independent

Drought intensifies forcing rationing of Colorado River water

The US Bureau of Reclamation last week warned water users to brace for a 500,000 acre-foot cut in water from the Colorado River as a historic drought continues to tighten its grip on the Southwest. The cutback comes on top of a 200,000 acre-foot reduction Arizona water users agreed to last year in an effort to put off this day of reckoning. The Central Arizona Project provides more than a third of the state’s water. The reductions will mostly impact farmers. The sparse snowpack this winter soaked into the ground during the hot, dry spring — producing little runoff.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

New report looks into water insecurity in tribal lands across Colorado River Basin

A recent report looked into why Indigenous communities within the Colorado River Basin are struggling to get clean, reliable running water. A household in tribal lands is 19 times more likely than a white household to not have indoor plumbing, and during the pandemic this had catastrophic effects on some Indigenous communities. According a 2019 report outlining the action plan for closing the water access gap throughout the United States, “race is the strongest predictor of water and sanitation access,” and it’s Indigenous people who face this problem most.

Aquafornia news Arizona Central

Arizona preparing for cutbacks on Colorado River water amid drought

With the Colorado River’s largest reservoir just 38% full and declining toward the threshold of a first-ever shortage, Arizona water officials convened an online meeting this week to outline how the state will deal with water cutbacks, saying the reductions will be “painful” but plans are in place to lessen the blow for affected farmers next year. Lake Mead’s decline is expected to trigger substantial reductions in water deliveries in 2022 for Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. The largest of those cuts will affect Arizona, slashing its Colorado River supplies by 512,000 acre-feet, about a fifth of its total entitlement.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

Water wonk with Hill, Interior chops to lead Army Corps

President Biden’s pick this week to oversee the Army’s vast natural resources operation would bring to the job decades of water experience at the Interior Department and on Capitol Hill. The president tapped Michael Connor to be the Department of Defense’s assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, which oversees the Army Corps of Engineers and its huge network of dams and other projects. Connor would play a major role in some of the most controversial projects facing the Biden administration in the environmental arena, including the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, as well as Clean Water Act permitting.

Aquafornia news Tucson.com

Cuts to CAP water called “planned pain”

In a note of consolation for the pain some Arizona water users will feel if Central Arizona Project supplies are cut next year, state water leaders said Thursday: It will be planned pain. Federal officials have said it’s likely Lake Mead at the Nevada border will be low enough at the end of 2021 to trigger the first major cutback in CAP deliveries to the Arizona’s parched midsection. Arizona will lose 512,000 acre-feet of its CAP supply — almost one-third of the $4 billion project’s total supply, according to a 2019 drought contingency plan. 

Aquafornia news Pahrump Valley Times

Legislature approves Southern Nevada non-residential turf removal proposal

The Nevada Assembly voted Thursday to approve a non-residential turf removal proposal brought by Southern Nevada water regulators, who say it will save the water-shy Las Vegas Valley 12 billion gallons of water per year. With little debate from lawmakers, the Assembly voted 30-12 on Assembly Bill 356, sending the proposal to the Senate. Four Republicans — Glen Leavitt, R-Boulder City, Heidi Kasama, R-Las Vegas, Melissa Hardy, R-Henderson, and Jill Tolles, R-Reno — crossed party lines to vote with the 26 Democrats.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Navajo Nation wins revival of Colorado River water rights suit

The Navajo Nation can pursue its lawsuit seeking to force the federal government to secure water from the Colorado River for the reservation, the Ninth Circuit said Wednesday, reversing a lower court’s dismissal of the tribe’s breach of trust claim. The tribe doesn’t seek a judge’s determination of its rights to the river, which the Interior Department says would fall under the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Instead, the tribe seeks an order for Interior to determine the extent to which it needs water, to develop a plan to secure… 

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Arizona positioned to take on cuts in Colorado River supply

Water officials in Arizona say they are prepared to lose about one-fifth of the water the state gets from the Colorado River in what could be the first federally declared shortage in the river that supplies millions of people in the U.S. West and Mexico. Arizona stands to lose more than any other state in the Colorado River basin that also takes in parts of Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and California. That’s because Arizona agreed long ago to be the first in line for cuts in exchange for federal funding for a canal system to deliver the water to Arizona’s major metropolitan areas.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Water, drought, California and the West

In what may become an iconic image for drought-stricken California, Gov. Gavin Newsom stood on the parched bed of Lake Mendocino on April 21 to announce an emergency declaration for Sonoma and Mendocino counties. … [T]he reservoir was at a historically low 43% of capacity, the harbinger of what could be a devastating drought cycle not only for the Northern California counties that fell within his drought declaration, but for most of the state — indeed, the American West. 
-Written by Michael Hiltzik, a Los Angeles Times columnist.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Capitol Times

Cutbacks in water for central AZ farmers expected

Arizona may be facing its first official declaration of water shortage next year, a move that would trigger water cutbacks of 512,000 acre-feet — almost 20% of Arizona’s Colorado River entitlement — affecting mainly agricultural users.  The 24-Month Study on the Colorado River system, released this month by the Bureau of Reclamation, projects that in June water levels in Lake Mead will fall below 1,075 feet for the first time, which would put the state in a Tier 1 shortage.

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Aquafornia news Aspen Journalism

New dust-on-snow monitoring technology coming to Steamboat lab, expanding a growing snowpack data network

The first automated dust-on-snow monitoring technology in the mountains of Northwest Colorado is expected to be installed this fall to study the impact of dust from arid landscapes on downwind mountain ecosystems in the state and in Utah. McKenzie Skiles, who is a hydrologist and a University of Utah assistant professor, will use close to $10,000 from a National Science Foundation grant to purchase four pyranometers, which measure solar radiation landing on, and reflected by, snow.

Aquafornia news KMTR

The fight for water around the Colorado River basin

The Colorado River cuts through the Grand Canyon, providing water for about 40 million people and 5 and a half million acres of farmland. To some, the water is as valuable as oil. In 1922, the seven U.S. states through which the river flows signed onto the Colorado River Compact, a water-sharing agreement that divvies up the river’s annual flow. The water must be shared equally between Upper Basin states: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico; and the Lower Basin: California, Arizona and Nevada. There’s been infighting ever since.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Colorado River shortage looms amid scant snow and shrinking flows

The water level of Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, has dropped more than 130 feet since the beginning of 2000, when the lake’s surface lapped at the spillway gates on Hoover Dam. Twenty-one years later, with the Colorado River consistently yielding less water as the climate has grown warmer and drier, the reservoir near Las Vegas sits at just 39% of capacity. … The river’s reservoirs are shrinking as the Southwest endures an especially severe bout of dryness within a two-decade drought intensified by climate change, one of the driest periods in centuries that shows no sign of letting up.

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun

White House steps up efforts to address prolonged drought in West

The Biden administration has launched a working group focused on addressing drought conditions in the West as the region continues to suffer from a long period of water scarcity. The group, which will be co-chaired by the departments of the Interior and Agriculture, will work with state, local and tribal governments on community needs in weathering drought, according to a news release from the Interior Department.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Learn about infrastructure and environmental restoration during Lower Colorado River Tour

Visit key infrastructure and environmental restoration sites along the lower Colorado River during our online tour May 20 of the iconic river as it weaves through the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona. Our Lower Colorado River Tour starts at Hoover Dam near Las Vegas and stops at major agricultural regions, tourist destinations and key wildlife areas such as the Salton Sea and a wildlife refuge in Yuma, Ariz. resulting from a tribal-city partnership.

Aquafornia news Vox

This stunning timelapse shows the megadrought’s toll on the West’s largest reservoir

Just how bad is the drought in the Western US? The shrinking of Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, is a troubling indicator. The massive man-made lake, which straddles the border of Arizona and Nevada, is now only at 39 percent of its full capacity, down from 44 percent in April 2020. That’s equivalent to a 10-foot drop in the water level, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Reclamation. Which means mandatory restrictions on the amount of water surrounding states draw from Lake Mead could be triggered in the next few months.

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Aquafornia news Capital & Main

The good news about climate change: there’s still hope

More than 20 years ago, aquatic ecologist Michael Bogan interned with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bishop, east of the Sierra Nevadas. It was 1998, a wet year for California, and the idea of studying water in the desert lodged in his brain. Desert streams are approachable subjects, especially compared to, say, a massive and murky system like the Mississippi River, says Bogan, now a professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment: … For Bogan, studying those small systems over the past two decades has meant witnessing their decline.

Aquafornia news Nevada Current

Drought, demands on groundwater making water law even more contentious

Water law adjudication, already a complicated field, will only become more so because of the climate crisis, extended droughts, and increasing demand for groundwater in Nevada, the Supreme Court was told last week. The court Friday held its first meeting for the newly created commission to study the adjudication of water law cases. Members of the commission range from ranchers to conservationists to mining industry representatives and scientists. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Marin to be first big Bay Area water agency to push ahead with water restrictions

As drought conditions worsen across Northern California, the Marin Municipal Water District is about to become the Bay Area’s first major water agency to make the leap to mandatory water restrictions. The utility is expected to adopt a plan Tuesday that would require nearly 200,000 residents of southern and central Marin County to limit outdoor watering to one day a week as well as to stop washing their cars, refilling their swimming pools and power-washing their homes, among other things. Offenders could face fines of up to $250…

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Aquafornia news Jfleck at Inkstain

Blog: The April 2021 24-month study was a shocker, but is it too optimistic?

The release of last week’s Bureau of Reclamation 24-month study felt like very bad news for the Colorado River (See Tony Davis for details.). But a careful reading of the numbers, and an understanding of the process through which they are developed, suggests things are likely even worse than the top-line numbers in the study. The problem: the assumptions underlying the study do not fully capture the climate-change driven aridification of the Colorado River Basin.

Aquafornia news KUNC

With first-ever Colorado River shortage almost certain, states stare down mandatory cutbacks

The Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs are likely to drop to historically low levels later this year, prompting mandatory conservation by some of the river’s heaviest users. The latest Bureau of Reclamation reservoir projections, which take into account river flows in a given year, show a likelihood that Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada stateline will dip below the critical threshold of 1,075 feet in elevation in May and remain below that level for the foreseeable future. A first-ever official shortage declaration from the Department of the Interior is almost certain later this year.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: Is California suffering a decades-long megadrought?

California has entered another drought. But depending on who you ask, the last one may have never really ended. Some researchers believe the region is actually more than two decades into an emerging “megadrought” — a hydrological event that is on par with the worst dry spells of the past millennium. Except this time, they say, human-caused climate change is driving its severity — and will make it that much harder to climb back out of.

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Aquafornia news Truthout

Blog: The Southwest offers blueprints for the future of wastewater reuse

No country is immune from water scarcity issues — not even the world’s wealthiest country, the United States. The southwestern states, in particular, have faced frequent and ongoing droughts over the past two decades, and traditional water supplies are failing. … Our existing water supplies must go further, and the technology exists to make this happen — by turning wastewater into drinking water. 

Aquafornia news Havasu News

Southern California leans on more Colorado River water to combat record dry season

Southern California, like most of the West, is in the middle of a record dry season. To combat it and keep the metropolitan area well-watered, they’re relying more heavily on the Colorado River, with water pumped directly from the south end of Lake Havasu. Last Wednesday, the Metropolitan Water District began pumping from Lake Havasu at full capacity for the first time in years, drawing water from the Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant located just north of the Parker Dam. The eight-pump flow is equivalent to about 3,000 acre feet of water being pumped per day, according to MWD Manager of Colorado River Resources Bill Hasencamp.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Department of the Interior

News release: White House announces several nominations to Interior leadership, including Tanya Trujillo as Assistant Secretary for Water and Science

The White House announced the intent to nominate several officials to serve at the Department of the Interior, including Tanya Trujillo as Assistant Secretary for Water and Science. Trujillo is a water lawyer with more than 20 years of experience working on complex natural resources management issues and interstate and transboundary water agreements. She most recently worked as a project director with the Colorado River Sustainability Campaign. Before then, she served as the Executive Director of the Colorado River Board of California.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

Controversial project is becoming a pipeline in the sand for local water agencies

The San Diego County Water Authority is no stranger to conflict – virtually all of its dealings over the past decade have been shaped by its feud with the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Now that feud is fueling fights within the agency itself.

Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

Podcast: Updating the status for water from the Colorado River

The Colorado River is one of the most highly developed surface water systems in the world, but demand for the river’s water continues to exceed supply. University of Arizona geosciences professor Connie Woodhouse discusses the impact of a warming climate on the Colorado River. She is the featured speaker for the annual College of Science lecture series April 15. Connie Woodhouse spoke with Leslie Tolbert, Regent’s professor emerita in Neuroscience at the University of Arizona.

Aquafornia news KOLD News 13

Extreme conditions now sparking drought contingency plan for first time

Extreme drought conditions throughout the West are lowering levels in the crucial water reservoir, Lake Mead. Scars of long years of low precipitation are hard to go unnoticed at Lake Mead, and the hot, dry summers have been felt for the last several years in Arizona. 2020 was especially dry, with little monsoon. Now, the West is in uncharted territory. Lake Mead is projected to drop by several feet this year, from elevation 1,083 to about 1,068, according to officials with the Central Arizona Project. The lake is hovering around 39 percent of its full capacity.

Aquafornia news New Mexico In Depth

A century of federal indifference left generations of Navajo homes without running water

[T]he 800 to 900 people in Tohatchi, and another 600 to 800 in Mexican Springs, eight miles to the west, all depend on a single well and single pump. If the pump running it fails, or if the water level in it drops — both issues that have troubled nearby Gallup this year — water will cut out for the homes, the head-start center, the schools, the clinic, the senior center, five churches, and the convenience store and gas station. … [T]he Navajo Nation has waited more than a century for pipes and water treatment plants that would bring drinking water to all of its people while watching nearby off-reservation cities and farms grow, swallowing up water from the Colorado River Basin that the tribe has a claim to.

Aquafornia news KTLA

Las Vegas pushes to become first to ban ornamental grass in water conservation move

A desert city built on a reputation for excess and indulgence wants to become a model for restraint and conservation with a first-in-the-nation policy banning grass that nobody walks on. Las Vegas-area water officials have spent two decades trying to get people to replace thirsty greenery with desert plants, and now they’re asking the Nevada Legislature to outlaw roughly 40% of the turf that’s left. The Southern Nevada Water Authority estimates there are almost 8 square miles (21 square kilometers) of “nonfunctional turf” in the metro area — grass that no one ever walks on or otherwise uses in street medians, housing developments and office parks.

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Aquafornia news ABC10 

California slips further into drought status

The state is slipping further into more serious levels of drought as it enters the second year for dry conditions and the records the third driest rainy season on record. The US Drought Monitor has downgraded areas in far Northern California, the Central Coast, and Southern California to reflect recent drought data. The top level “Exceptional” (D4) drought remains at 5% in the Owens Valley and Mohave Desert. Extreme (D3) drought now covers 35% of the state, an increase from 32% last week. Most of the direct impacts from various stages of more severe drought impact agriculture and grazing areas. Many areas have only seen 50% of normal rain or less. Areas that receive snow have seen well below average snowpack levels.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

In the West, signs in the snow warn that a 20-year drought will persist and intensify

Lack of monsoon rainfall last summer and spotty snowfall this winter combined to worsen the Western drought dramatically in the past year, and spring snowmelt won’t bring much relief. Critical April 1 measurements of snow accumulations from mountain ranges across the region show that most streams and rivers will once again flow well below average levels this year, stressing ecosystems and farms and depleting key reservoirs that are already at dangerously low levels.  As the climate warms, it’s likely that drought conditions will worsen and persist across much of the West. Dry spells between downpours and blizzards are getting longer, and snowpack in the mountains is starting to melt during winter, new research shows. 

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Aquafornia news BBC News

The water fight over the shrinking Colorado River

Scientists have been predicting for years that the Colorado River would continue to deplete due to global warming and increased water demands, but according to new studies it’s looking worse than they thought. That worries rancher Marsha Daughenbaugh, 68, of Steamboat Springs, who relies on the water from the Colorado River to grow feed for her cattle. … Recent reports show that the river’s water flows were down 20% in 2000 and by 2050 that number is estimated to more than double.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Study: Climate change has made rainstorms more erratic, droughts much longer in U.S. West

Rainstorms grew more erratic and droughts much longer across most of the U.S. West over the past half-century as climate change warmed the planet, according to a sweeping government study released Tuesday that concludes the situation is worsening. The most dramatic changes were recorded in the desert Southwest, where the average dry period between rainstorms grew from about 30 days in the 1970s to 45 days between storms now, said Joel Biederman, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Southwest Watershed Research Center in Tucson, Arizona.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Explore California’s water basics & the lifeblood of the Southwest during upcoming virtual events

Our two-day Water 101 Workshop begins on Earth Day, when you can gain a deeper understanding of California’s most precious natural resource. One of our most popular events, the once-a-year workshop will be held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23. California’s water basics will be covered by some of the state’s leading policy and legal experts, including the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in the state, as well a look at hot topics and current issues of concern.

Aquafornia news Havasu News

Colorado River Indian Tribes will get $209K to stop water loss from irrigation canals

The Colorado River Indian Tribes will receive $209,000 for irrigation canal projects, Congressman Paul Gosar announced Tuesday. The federal funds were awarded by the U.S. Department of the Interior to help CRIT pay for canal lining. The project is intended to help stop water seepage from the canal. CRIT relies on the Colorado River as its primary source of water, and water conserved with help the Tribes meet existing demand during times of drought, Gosar said. The project will line nearly 4,000 feet of the earthen canal with a membrane covered in sprayed concrete. The stretch of canal has been identified as having the most significant seepage rate of all 232 miles of canals in the Colorado River Irrigation Project, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Vegas water agency asks lawmakers to ban ornamental grass

Las Vegas water officials want state lawmakers to require the removal of thirsty grass landscaping that isn’t used for recreation. Southern Nevada Water Authority lobbyist Andy Belanger told lawmakers Monday that climate change and growth in the Las Vegas area would require communities to take more significant measures to conserve water. The agency estimates that more than 5,000 acres of “nonfunctional turf” — grass not used for recreational activities like golf, youth sports or dog-walking — is spread throughout the region.

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Aquafornia news University of Colorado Boulder

New research: Increased winter snowmelt threatens western water resources

More snow is melting during winter across the West, a concerning trend that could impact everything from ski conditions to fire danger and agriculture, according to a new CU Boulder analysis of 40 years of data. Researchers found that since the late 1970s, winter’s boundary with spring has been slowly disappearing, with one-third of 1,065 snow measurement stations from the Mexican border to the Alaskan Arctic recording increasing winter snowmelt…. Their new findings, published in Nature Climate Change, have important implications for water resource planning…

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

As Colorado River drought deepens, Arizona prepares for water cutbacks

Unrelenting drought and years of rising temperatures due to climate change are pushing the long-overallocated Colorado River into new territory, setting the stage for the largest mandatory water cutbacks to date. Lake Mead, the biggest reservoir on the river, has declined dramatically over the past two decades and now stands at just 40% of its full capacity. This summer, it’s projected to fall to the lowest levels since it was filled in the 1930s following the construction of Hoover Dam. The reservoir near Las Vegas is approaching a threshold that is expected to trigger a first-ever shortage declaration by the federal government for next year, leading to substantial cuts in water deliveries to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Nevada farmers and conservationists balk at “water banking,” an idea also being weighed in Colorado

Rural water users are panicking over a proposal to create a market for the sale and purchase of water rights in Nevada, unconvinced by arguments that the concept would encourage conservation. Lawmakers on Monday weighed whether so-called “water banking” would be preferable to prevailing water law doctrines that govern surface and groundwater rights disputes in the driest state in the U.S. A legislative hearing about two proposals to allow water rights holders to sell their entitlements pitted state water bureaucrats against a coalition of farmers, conservationists and rural officials. 

Aquafornia news The Daily Beast

The next time you’re out West, you might see clouds on steroids

The idea of cloud seeding and weather modification has been around since 1940. There were federally funded programs in the 1960s—one named Project Skywater that ultimately had mixed results. In the 1970s and 1980s, the US government began experimenting on how weather modification could be used as a war tool. But outside of ski resorts like Vail, where the technology is used to help increase snow during snowstorms, interest in cloud seeding largely dropped off. … According to the North American Weather Modification Council, there are currently several projects being run in California, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, Utah, among other states with a project here or there.

Aquafornia news The Weather Network

Another California drought in 2021 is possible, along with more wildfires

It was in 2016 that the state of California declared a four-year drought had finally come to an end. Now, in 2021, it could be entering another very dry season. It is in the winter season that folks on the West Coast welcome dreary days packed with cloud and rain. California usually sees the most rain and snow in the month of February. This year, however, was different: It was quite dry all of the winter season, and we can blame La Niña for this pattern. … Thirty per cent of California’s water supply comes from the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges and only 57 per cent of normal precipitation has fallen this season. This, coupled with lower than average snowpack for 2020 as well, could spell trouble down the road when it comes to water supply.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Colorado’s snowpack was almost normal this winter, but it may not be enough water for the year

The blizzard that dumped snow along the Front Range in March helped Colorado nearly reach its average snowpack for the winter, federal data shows. But last year’s historically dry weather means that streams are likely to run lower than normal, potentially restricting the amount of water some consumers can use, experts said… Areas east of the Continental Divide had above average snowpack, but the Colorado River Basin on the west was below average….

Aquafornia news Colorado Politics

Judge tosses challenge from environmental groups to halt Denver Water reservoir expansion

A federal judge has thrown out a legal action from multiple environmental organizations seeking to halt the expansion of a key Denver Water storage facility, citing no legal authority to address the challenge. … The expansion of Gross Reservoir in Boulder County is intended to provide additional water storage and safeguard against future shortfalls during droughts. The utility currently serves customers in Denver, Jefferson, Arapahoe, Douglas and Adams counties. In July 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave its approval for the design and construction of the reservoir’s expansion. The project would add 77,000 acre-feet of water storage and 131 feet to the dam’s height for the utility’s “North System” of water delivery.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Agencies: Arizona farmers should expect less water in 2022

State officials are putting farmers in south-central Arizona on notice that the continuing drought means a “substantial cut” in deliveries of Colorado River water is expected next year. A joint statement issued Friday by the state Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project said an expected shortage declaration “will result in a substantial cut to Arizona’s share of the river, with reductions falling largely to central Arizona agricultural users.” The Central Arizona Project is an aqueduct system that delivers Colorado River water to users in central Arizona and southern Arizona, including farmers, cities and tribes.

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Aquafornia news KAWC

When water is scarce, some researchers go underground to find out why

When it comes to water in the West, a lot of it is visible. Snow stacks up high in the mountains then eventually melts and flows down into valleys. It’s easy to see how heavy rains and rushing rivers translate into an abundance of available water. But another important factor of water availability is much harder to see. Beneath the surface, the amount of moisture held in the ground can play a big role in how much water makes it down to rivers and reservoirs – and eventually into the pipes that feed homes and businesses. Elise Osenga is a community science manager for the Aspen Global Change Institute – a nonprofit focused on expanding scientific understanding of climate change. 

Aquafornia news Western Slope Now

2020 Drought: One of the worst in Colorado history

Local water providers say the current drought is one of the worst in Colorado history. Mesa County ranges from extreme drought to exceptional drought in areas and it doesn’t appear to be improving anytime soon. Below average spring runoff is anticipated by local water providers as watersheds are working to be replenished after last year’s drought. … The wildfires in the Colorado River basin last summer have scarred significant portions of the Colorado River which may result in debris, ash, and dense mud flowing into the Colorado River watershed, which will impact water quality for many water entities in Mesa County.

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Aquafornia news KUNC

Colorado River tribes aim to establish ‘one unified voice’ in policy talks

The Fort Yuma-Quechan Indian Tribe is situated at a nexus in the Colorado River Basin. That’s true in a geographic sense. The tribe’s reservation overlays the Arizona-California border near Yuma, Arizona. The two states are heavily reliant on water from the Colorado River. The reservation also abuts the U.S.-Mexico border where the river flows into Mexico for use in cities and on farms. One of the river’s largest irrigation projects, the All-American Canal, was dug through the tribe’s land, and flows from the reservation’s northeastern boundary to its far southwestern corner, on its way to irrigate crops in California’s Imperial Valley. The confluence of the Colorado River and one of its historically important tributaries, the Gila River, is nearby.

Aquafornia news GoBankingRates

Blog: 6 alarming facts about America’s water industry

About 40 million Americans in the West and Southwest rely on the Colorado River for drinking water, as do the region’s massive agriculture and recreation industries. Water has been the most valuable commodity in the West since the time of the pioneers. It became a source of modern political power when the water of the Colorado River was divvied up among seven Western States in the 1920s — the Jack Nicholson movie “Chinatown” dramatized California’s legendary water battles. Today, a rapidly shrinking Colorado River is forced to support relentless development in California and across the West — very thirsty development.

Aquafornia news Water Education Colorado

Despite blizzard, Colorado’s critical mountain snowpack shrinks

Despite the recent history-making blizzard on Colorado’s Front Range, statewide snowpack sits at 92 percent of average as of March 19, down from 105 percent of average at the end of February, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Just two river basins, the Arkansas and the Rio Grande, are registering above average at 101 percent and 106 percent respectively. Among the driest are the Gunnison Basin, at 86 percent of average, and the San Juan/Dolores, at 83 percent, both in the southwestern part of the state.

Aquafornia news The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah is a leader in cloud seeding and could prove as a model for boosting a drought-stricken West’s water supplies

Utah’s winter sports industry may claim the greatest snow on Earth, but for skiers and water watchers alike, there is hardly ever enough powder. For nearly 50 years, the second-driest state in the nation has been giving natural winter storms an engineered boost to help deepen its snowpack through a program largely funded by state taxpayers, local governments and water conservancy districts. More recently, the states that rely on water from the lower Colorado River — California, Arizona and Nevada — have been paying for additional cloud seeding in Utah.

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Aquafornia news Science News

Simple structures can help streams survive wildfires and drought

Many of the wetlands in the western United States have disappeared since the 1700s. California has lost an astonishing 90 percent of its wetlands, which includes streamsides, wet meadows and ponds. In Nevada, Idaho and Colorado, more than 50 percent of wetlands have vanished. Precious wet habitats now make up just 2 percent of the arid West — and those remaining wet places are struggling. Nearly half of U.S. streams are in poor condition, unable to fully sustain wildlife and people, says Jeremy Maestas, a sagebrush ecosystem specialist with the NRCS who organized that workshop on Wilde’s ranch in 2016. As communities in the American West face increasing water shortages, more frequent and larger wildfires and unpredictable floods, restoring ailing waterways is becoming a necessity.

Aquafornia news Cornell Chronicle

New research: Study exposes global ripple effects of regional water scarcity

Water scarcity is often understood as a problem for regions experiencing drought, but a new study from Cornell and Tufts universities finds that not only can localized water shortages impact the global economy, but changes in global demand send positive and negative ripple effects to water basins across the globe. … [I]n the lower Colorado River basin, the worst economic outcomes arise from limited groundwater availability and high population growth, but that high population growth can also prove beneficial under some climatic scenarios. 

Aquafornia news Arizona PBS

Tribal leaders ask for more funding, less meddling for water projects

Arizona tribal officials told a Senate committee Wednesday that the federal government can help address a crisis with water infrastructure on their lands through more funding, and less meddling. Navajo Department of Water Resources Director Jason John and Colorado River Indian Tribes Chairwoman Amelia Flores made the comments during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on water infrastructure for Native communities. Leaders of Oregon and Alaska tribes also testified at the hearing. 

Aquafornia news The Daily Sentinel

Water outlook a concern for endangered fish

Meager anticipated snowmelt runoff is expected to mean another challenging year for maintaining even below-optimal levels of flows in the Colorado River downstream of the Palisade area for the benefit of endangered fish. … What’s referred to as the 15-Mile Reach of the river between the Palisade area and the Gunnison River confluence is of particular concern for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, which focuses on four endangered fish. The stretch is primarily used by two of the fish — the razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow. But it’s also used by a third, the bonytail. And a fourth, the humpback chub, which favors downstream stretches such as Westwater Canyon, indirectly benefits from efforts to bolster flows in the 15-Mile Reach.

Aquafornia news Fox 13 Salt Lake City

Romney and the looming Colorado River clash

One of the most critical negotiations for Utah’s future is coming at a time when Utah’s delegations in Washington D.C. may be less influential than every other party at the table. The Colorado River Compact, hammered out in 1922 with few amendments over the years, expires in 2026. Every other state in the compact other than Utah has a majority Democratic or split delegation in Washington. Those states? Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. 

Aquafornia news KUER

A Colorado River showdown is looming. Let the posturing begin

A showdown is looming on the Colorado River. The river’s existing management guidelines are set to expire in 2026. The states that draw water from it are about to undertake a new round of negotiations over the river’s future, while it’s facing worsening dry conditions due in part to rising temperatures. That means everyone with an interest in the river’s future — tribes, environmentalists, developers, business groups, recreation advocates — is hoping a new round of talks will bring certainty to existing water supplies and demands.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Make it rain: US states embrace ‘cloud seeding’ to try to conquer drought

With three-quarters of the US west gripped by a seemingly ceaseless drought, several states are increasingly embracing a drastic intervention – the modification of the weather to spur more rainfall. … Cloud seeding experiments have taken place since the 1940s but until recently there was little certainty the method had any positive impact. But research last year managed to pinpoint snowfall that “unambiguously” came from cloud seeding … Others are now looking to join in, including the “four corners” states – Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico – that have been ravaged by the most extreme version of the latest drought. 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Green

Monday Top of the Scroll: Drought is the U.S. West’s next big climate disaster

Much of the U.S. West is facing the driest spring in seven years, setting up a climate disaster that could strangle agriculture, fuel deadly wildfires and even hurt power production. Across 11 western states, drought has captured about 75% of the land, and covers more than 44% of the contiguous U.S., the U.S. Drought Monitor said.  While drought isn’t new to the West, where millions of people live, grow crops and raise livestock in desert conditions that require massive amounts of water, global warming is exacerbating the problem — shrinking snowpack in the Rocky Mountains and extending the fire season on the West Coast.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Feds want to fix canal, but Nevada town lives off the leaks

A Nevada town founded a century ago by pioneers lured to the West by the promise of free land and cheap water in the desert is trying to block the U.S. government from renovating a 115-year-old earthen irrigation canal with a plan that would eliminate leaking water that local residents long have used to fill their own domestic wells. A federal judge denied the town of Fernley’s bid last year to delay plans to line parts of the Truckee Canal with concrete to make it safer after it burst and flooded nearly 600 homes in 2008.

Aquafornia news Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Projects throughout the Western United States receive $42.4 million in grants from Reclamation to conserve and use water more efficiently

The Bureau of Reclamation is awarding $42.4 million in grants to 55 projects throughout 13 states. These projects will improve the water reliability for these communities by using water more efficiently and power efficiency improvements that water supply reliability and generate more hydropower…. In California, near the Arizona border, the Bard Water District will receive $1.1 million to complete a canal lining and piping project. The project is expected to result in annual water savings of 701 acre-feet, which will remain in the Colorado River system for other uses.  

Aquafornia news Boating Industry

California offers grants for quagga and zebra mussel prevention

The Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) will be accepting grant applications for quagga and zebra mussel infestation prevention programs from March 22 through April 30, 2021. All applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 30, 2021. … California water body authorities have recognized the westward spread of mussel infestation via the Colorado River System and the potential harm to state waterways should lakes and reservoirs become invaded. To help prevent California waterways from infestation, DBW provides grants to entities that own or manage any aspect of water in a reservoir that is open for public recreation and is mussel-free.

Aquafornia news The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah governor declares a state of emergency because of drought

After a record dry summer and fall — and with winter snowpack currently at 70% of normal levels — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed an emergency order Wednesday declaring a state of emergency due to drought conditions. The move comes after a recommendation from the state’s Drought Review and Reporting Committee and opens the door for drought-affected communities and agricultural producers to potentially access state or federal emergency funds and resources, according to a news release. Cox said Wednesday that state leaders have been “monitoring drought conditions carefully and had hoped to see significant improvement from winter storms.”

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Aquafornia news The Telegraph

Scrapped Vegas pipeline plan looms amid swamp cedar debate

The shadow of a controversial plan to pipe groundwater from rural Nevada to Las Vegas looms as state lawmakers weigh two proposals to protect groves of swamp cedar trees considered sacred on Monday. Until last year when the Southern Nevada Water Authority decided to “indefinitely defer” its pursuit of permits, the trees were caught in the crossfire of fights over development and conservation.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Geoengineering: 8 states are tweaking the weather (and it might not work)

Western water managers are contending with the growing threat of shortages. Flow has dwindled on major water systems like the Rio Grande and the Colorado River, which each supply water to millions of people. With temperatures steadily rising, cloud seeding poses one attractive solution.

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Aquafornia news EurekAlert!

New research: Geomorphologists map fine sediment in Colorado River to improve sandbar management

Grain by grain, sandbars are ecologically important to the Colorado River system for humans and wildlife, say scientists. How sand, silt and clay move along and become deposited within the river corridor in the Grand Canyon National Park, downstream from Glen Canyon Dam, has become an important question to a number of government agencies as well as to Native American tribes. The answer impacts the entire Colorado River ecosystem and will help scientists better understand how the Colorado River system works.

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

All that snow should help with Colorado’s drought, but it’s still not enough for some parts of the state

As Colorado digs out from the recent blizzard, each heavy shovel full of snow proves the storm brought plenty of moisture. But is it enough to free the state from its drought conditions? Russ Schumacher, the Colorado state climatologist, said the answer largely depends on location. … Colorado’s drought conditions had improved ahead of the storm. After record dry weather over the summer and fall, snowpack levels had inched toward normal throughout the winter, but western Colorado continued to miss out on the snowfall. 

Aquafornia news Charlotte Observer

Water flow change at Grand Canyon to reveal riverbed

The water flow in the Grand Canyon is temporarily changing and it could reveal some surprises, geologists said. The U.S. Geological Survey said Sunday that an 11-day “spring disturbance” flow will start Monday and will drop water levels in parts of the Grand Canyon. … While dam maintenance may not seem exciting, the drop in water could reveal parts of the Colorado riverbed that hasn’t been seen in decades, USGS said. It could also impact in the Colorado River ecosystem. The change in water levels will also mimic what the Colorado River was like before the dam was built, USGS said.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Sun

Reduced water flow prepped at Lake Powell

Scientists and boatmen with the United States Geological Survey are preparing for a busy week on the Colorado River as engineers at Glen Canyon Dam prepare to reduce the water flowing out of Lake Powell substantially. In order to conduct maintenance on the concrete apron downstream of the dam, engineers will be limiting the water that runs through the dam’s turbines starting Monday and continuing through the rest of the week.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Blog: Colorado’s latest proposal to divert water from the Western Slope is a complex, disputed set of pipes

Sometime in the middle of next year, if Northern Water gets its way, the bulldozers will start piling earth and rock 25 stories high to plug this dry basin southwest of Loveland forever.  Four miles to the south, they’ll build another dam to keep their newly-made bathtub from leaking out the back toward Lyons. Drill crews will bore a massive pipeline through the hogback making up the east edge of the bathtub, in order to feed Carter Lake a few hundred yards to the east. They’ll move a power line. Help build a surrounding open space park. Upgrade a sewage plant in Fraser. Four years later, they’ll close dam gates reinforced to hold back 29 billion gallons of life-giving water.

Aquafornia news Vox

Drought in California – Why 77 percent of the Western US is abnormally dry

The Western US is in the midst of yet another dangerous dry spell. The drought has been building over the past year, and since November, a greater stretch of the West has been in the most severe category of drought than at any time in the 20 years that the National Drought Mitigation Center has been keeping records. … Ryan Jensen saw the impacts of California’s last major drought firsthand while working for the Community Water Center in the San Joaquin Valley. When residential wells ran dry, students had to shower in their school locker rooms. To keep toilets running, some rural households relied on hoses slung over fences from their neighbors.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Save the date for our virtual lower Colorado River tour on May 20

Mark your calendars now for our virtual Lower Colorado River Tour on May 20 to learn about the important role the river’s water plays in the three Lower Basin states of Nevada, Arizona and California, and how it helps to sustain their cities, wildlife areas and farms. Registration is coming soon! This virtual journey will cover a stretch of the Colorado River from Hoover Dam and its reservoir Lake Mead, the nation’s tallest concrete dam and largest reservoir respectively, down to the U.S./Mexico border and up to the Salton Sea.

Aquafornia news Arizona Capitol Times

Opinion: Congress has opportunity to protect Grand Canyon region

The Grand Canyon Protection Act was recently introduced by U.S. Rep. Raύl Grijalva and passed in the House and has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. The bills will permanently protect about 1 million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon from the harmful and lasting damage of new uranium mining. … This legislation is critical to stopping the threats that mining poses to water quality and quantity, unique habitats and wildlife pathways, and to sacred places. 
-Written by Sandy Bahr, director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, and Amber Wilson Reimondo, Energy Program director with Grand Canyon Trust.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Western states chart diverging paths as water shortages loom

As persistent drought and climate change threaten the Colorado River, several states that rely on the water acknowledge they likely won’t get what they were promised a century ago. But not Utah. Republican lawmakers approved an entity that could push for more of Utah’s share of water as seven Western states prepare to negotiate how to sustain a river serving 40 million people. Critics say the legislation, which the governor still must sign, could strengthen Utah’s effort to complete a billion-dollar pipeline from a dwindling reservoir that’s a key indicator of the river’s health.

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Aquafornia news KNAU Arizona Public Radio

Report calls for “radical changes” to Colorado River management

A recent report from Colorado River experts says it’s time for radical new management strategies to safeguard the Southwest’s water supplies. It’s meant to inform discussions on how to renegotiate certain parts of the Law of the River that will expire in 2026. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke about the report with Jack Schmidt, director of the Center for Colorado River Studies at Utah State University.

Aquafornia news The Wall Street Journal

Record drought strains the Southwest

For the first time ever, rancher Jimmie Hughes saw all 15 of the ponds he keeps for his cattle dry up at the same time this year. Now, he and his co-workers are forced to haul tanks of water two hours over dusty, mountain roads to water their 300 cows. … The Southwest is locked in drought again, prompting cutbacks to farms and ranches and putting renewed pressure on urban supplies. Extreme to exceptional drought is afflicting between 57% and 90% of the land in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Arizona and is shriveling a snowpack that supplies water to 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

Invasive mussels in aquarium supplies alarm wildlife managers

Zebra mussels — fingernail-sized mollusks named for their striped shells — are benign in their native Black Sea and Caspian Sea ecosystems. But they are disastrous almost everywhere else. Since they were first discovered in the Great Lakes in 1986, these rapid-spawning animals have infested every watershed in the Lower 48 except the Columbia River Basin….The mussel found in [a pet store in] Seattle came from the California distributor….

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Colorado River study predicts big cuts. That’s not why it’s intriguing

A new Colorado River study predicts we may need to make even deeper cuts to keep our reservoirs from tanking over the long haul. But the dire conclusions within the study aren’t what make it so intriguing. It’s how the group arrived at them. The Future of the Colorado River project, an effort based out of Utah State University, has produced six white papers to evaluate new approaches to water management along the river. And, most notably, it is using the Colorado River Simulation System (CRSS), the same modeling tool the Bureau of Reclamation uses to develop its long-term water availability forecasts for the basin.
- Written by Joanna Allhands, a columnist for the Arizona Republic.

Aquafornia news Post Independent

Opinion: Colorado River Compact adjustments are needed

When [the Colorado River Compact was] signed in 1922, the Colorado River drainage was divided into two divisions; Upper: Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah; Lower: Arizona, California, Nevada. At that time, it was felt the total average annual flow was 16.4 million acre feet. As a result, each basin was assigned 50%, or 7.5 million acre feet, with the 1.4 million acre feet surplus allocated to Mexico. … As a result, the Upper Basin is obligated to provide 7.5M acre feet to the Lower Basin, regardless of the actual flow of water in any given year. Obviously, snowpack and the consequent flow is not a constant and years of drought and low flows create a problem for the Upper Basin.
-Written by Bryan Whiting, a columnist for the Glenwood Springs (Colo.) Post Independent. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Springs Gazette

Colorado in Drought — Scientists preparing for ‘chaotic weather’ future

The hot dry conditions that melted strong snowpack early in 2020 and led to severe drought, low river flows and record setting wildfires across the state could be a harbinger of what is to come in Colorado. Climate change is likely to drive “chaotic weather” and greater extremes with hotter droughts and bigger snowstorms that will be harder to predict, said Kenneth Williams, environmental remediation and water resources program lead at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, headquartered in California.

Aquafornia news USA Today

Friday Top of the Scroll: Megadrought worsens in the Western U.S., California

Much of the western U.S. continues to endure a long-term drought, one that threatens the region’s water supplies and agriculture and could worsen wildfires this year. In fact, some scientists are calling the dryness in the West a “megadrought,”  defined as an intense drought that lasts for decades or longer.  Overall, about 90% of the West is now either abnormally dry or in a drought, which is among the highest percentages in the past 20 years, according to this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor.

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Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

The biggest coal power plant in the American West closed. What happens with the Colorado River water it used?

The coal-fired power plant that sat on Navajo Nation land in the northeastern corner of Arizona did not just generate electricity. It also drew water from the Colorado River, an essential input for cooling the plant’s machinery. What happens to that water now that the plant is being decommissioned? Who gets to decide how it is used? In a drying region in which every drop of water is accounted for and parceled out, the stakes are high and the legal claims are unresolved.

Aquafornia news The Desert Review

$44.4 million in MWD overcharges being returned to local water agencies

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors in February 2021 announced a plan to distribute a rebate of $44.4 million to its 24 member agencies across the region after receiving a check for that amount from the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to pay legal damages and interest, according to a SDCWA press release.

Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

In rapidly warming Colorado River Basin, the negotiating table is being set

Anyone who has hosted a good dinner party knows that the guest list, table setting and topic of conversation play a big role in determining whether the night is a hit or the guests leave angry and unsatisfied. That concept is about to get a true test on the Colorado River, where chairs are being pulled up to a negotiating table to start a new round of talks that could define how the river system adapts to a changing climate for the next generation. 

Aquafornia news Lake Powell Chronicle

Blog: Is Lake Powell doomed?

On Feb. 22, 2021, Lake Powell was 127.24 feet below ‘Full Pool’ or, by content, about 38% full. Based on water level elevations, these measurements do not account for years of sediment (clay, silt, and sand) accumulation—the millions of metric tons on the bottom. Geologist James L. Powell said, “The Colorado delivers enough sediment to Lake Powell to fill 1,400 ship cargo containers each day.” In other words, Lake Powell is shrinking toward the middle from top and bottom. The lake is down over 30 feet from one year ago, and estimates suggest it could drop another 50 feet by 2026. The Bureau of Reclamation estimated the lifespan of Glen Canyon Dam at 500–700 years. Other estimates aren’t as optimistic, including some as low as 50 years. 

Aquafornia news KUER

Colorado River Authority bill moves to full Senate, some still concerned about transparency

A Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday to create Utah’s Colorado River Authority, which would be tasked with helping the state renegotiate its share of the river. Originally the bill allowed broad reasons to close meetings and protect records. It’s since been changed twice to come more into compliance with the state’s open meeting and record laws. Critics of the bill said it’s still not enough. Mike O’Brien, an attorney with the Utah Media Coalition, said having a narrower scope for open meetings and records exemptions makes the bill better than when it was first introduced. But he wishes it would follow laws already there.

Aquafornia news Public News Service

Groups call Lake Powell hydropower project unsustainable

Federal regulators have issued a preliminary permit for a pumped-hydropower project using water from Lake Powell, but conservation groups say climate change could make the plan unsustainable. The project would pump water from the lake, drain it downhill to a generator, and send the power to massive batteries for storage. The 2,200-megawatt project would supply cities in Arizona, California and Nevada, over lines previously used by the retired Navajo Generating Station. Gary Wockner, executive director for Save the Colorado, which opposes the plan, said falling water levels will make the Colorado River Basin an unreliable source of water.

Aquafornia news The New Republic

How does a state use 40 percent less water?

Arizona, California, and Nevada will need to cut their use of Colorado River water by nearly 40 percent by 2050. A study by researchers at Utah State University, which the Arizona Daily Star reported this past Sunday, noted that Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming—the Upper Basin states—will have to reduce their usage, as well, though not by as much as those pulling water from the Lower Basin.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

Will the climate crisis tap out the Colorado River?

From California’s perspective, the view upriver is not encouraging. More than half of the upper part of the river basin is in “exceptional drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, while the Lower Basin is even worse off: More than 60% of it is in the highest drought level. In January, water levels in Lake Powell, the river’s second-largest reservoir, dropped to unprecedented depths, triggering a drought contingency plan for the first time for the Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. Since 2000, the Colorado River Basin has seen a sustained period of less water and hotter days. This is, as climate scientists like to say, the “new normal.”

Aquafornia news Pagosa Daily Post

Editorial: Dragons, unicorns, and Colorado’s water crisis, part six

“Basic climate science reveals that Lake Powell is not a reliable water source for this ill-conceived project.” The reference to ‘basic climate science’ refers to recent computer models that show a drier climate throughout the American Southwest over the next few decades, allegedly due to the continued use of fossil fuels all around the globe. But even without access to clever computer models, we have all seen Lake Powell and Lake Mead — America’s two largest water reservoirs — struggle to remain even half full, as we watch water users extract more water than nature can replace.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Opinion: Utah’s designs on Colorado River water would ignore the facts and evade the law

Utah House Bill 297 is a dangerous spending bill that provides its benefactors with exemptions to conflict-of-interest laws that raises serious moral questions about what is happening at the Utah Legislature. The bill creates another heavily-funded and secretive government agency — the Colorado River Authority — that would receive an initial $9 million, plus $600,000 per year thereafter, in addition to collecting unknown sums of money from other agencies.
-Written by Claire Geddes, a consumer advocate and former director of Utah Legislative Watch.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Colorado River study means it’s time to cut water use now, outside experts say

Less water for the Central Arizona Project — but not zero water. Even more competition between farms and cities for dwindling Colorado River supplies than there is now. More urgency to cut water use rather than wait for seven river basin states to approve new guidelines in 2025 for operating the river’s reservoirs. That’s where Arizona and the Southwest are heading with water, say experts and environmental advocates following publication of a dire new academic study on the Colorado River’s future. The study warned that the river’s Upper and Lower basin states must sustain severe cuts in river water use to keep its reservoir system from collapsing due to lack of water. That’s due to continued warming weather and other symptoms of human-caused climate change, the study said.

Aquafornia news Deseret News

Why Utah lawmakers are worried about having enough water in the future

Utah lawmakers say drought and the dwindling Colorado River make it more important than ever for the state to act now to safeguard its interest in the river. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Colorado

Blog: Colorado Water Plan turns five: Is it working?

In the five years since Colorado’s Water Plan took effect, the state has awarded nearly $500 million in loans and grants for water projects, cities have enacted strict drought plans, communities have written nearly two dozen locally based stream restoration plans, and crews have been hard at work improving irrigation systems and upgrading wastewater treatment plants. But big challenges lie ahead — drought, population growth, accelerating climate change, budget cuts, wildfires and competing demands for water, among others.

Aquafornia news The New Republic

The Colorado River crisis is a national crisis

The Colorado River supports over 40 million people spread across seven southwestern states, 29 tribal nations, and Mexico. It’s responsible for the irrigation of roughly 5.5 million acres of land marked for agricultural use. Local and regional headlines show the river is in crisis. The nation mostly isn’t listening.

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada could get some of California’s share of Lake Mead. Here’s how:

A proposed water recycling project in Southern California could result in Nevada getting some of the Golden State’s share of water from the Colorado River. The Southern Nevada Water Authority could invest up to $750 million into the water treatment project. In return for the investment, it could get a share of California’s water in Lake Mead. If built, the project would give the region another tool to protect itself against the ongoing strain of drought conditions on the Colorado River.

Aquafornia news The Salt Lake Tribune

Why hedge funds are eyeing Utah’s shrinking water supply

[T]he president of New York-based hedge fund Water Asset Management … has called water in the United States “a trillion-dollar market opportunity.” The hedge fund invested $300 million in farmland in Colorado, California, Arizona and Nevada as of 2020, including $16.6 million on 2,220 acres of farmland with senior water rights in Colorado’s Grand Valley just upstream from where the Colorado River crosses into Utah.

Aquafornia news Tucson.com

Colorado River outlook darkens dramatically in new study

In the gloomiest long-term forecast yet for the drought-stricken Colorado River, a new study warns that lower river basin states including Arizona may have to slash their take from the river up to 40% by the 2050s to keep reservoirs from falling too low. Such a cut would amount to about twice as much as the three Lower Basin states — Arizona, California and Nevada — agreed to absorb under the drought contingency plan they approved in early 2019. Overall, the study warned that managing the river sustainably will require substantially larger cuts in use by Lower Basin states than currently envisioned, along with curbs on future diversions by Upper Basin states.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Reporter notebook: San Diego’s water war with L.A. is almost a century old

I’ve written in the past about the San Diego County Water Authority’s efforts to divest from its parent agency the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. That includes the bad blood between the two agencies stemming from MWD’s water cutbacks to San Diego in 1991, and how local leaders felt they were mistreated. What I didn’t realize was just how far back the tension goes between San Diego leaders and MWD. All the way back to the Great Depression…

Aquafornia news Mountain Town News

A deep rethink of the Colorado River

Much has been said about a “new normal” in the Colorado River Basin. The phrase describes reduced flows in the 21st century as compared to those during much of the 20th century. Authors of a new study contemplate something beyond, what they call a “new abnormal.” The future, they say, might be far dryer than water managers have been planning for. … In the 133-page report, they identified a wide variety of alternative management ideas, not simple tweaks but “significant modifications or entirely new approaches.” 

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Proposed river authority would assert Utah’s claims to the Colorado’s dwindling water

Utah legislative leaders on Thursday unveiled plans for a new $9 million state agency to advance Utah’s claims to the Colorado River in hopes of wrangling more of the river’s diminishing flows, potentially at the expense of six neighboring states that also tap the river. Without any prior public involvement or notice, lawmakers assembled legislation to create a six-member entity called the Colorado River Authority of Utah, charged with implementing “a management plan to ensure that Utah can protect and develop the Colorado River system.”

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Aquafornia news San Diego Union-Tribune

A $5 billion water project could drill through Anza-Borrego park. Is it a pipe dream?

It would be arguably the most ambitious public works project in San Diego history. The envisioned pipeline would carry Colorado River water more than 130 miles from the Imperial Valley — through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, tunneling under the Cuyamaca Mountains, and passing through the Cleveland National Forest — to eventually connect with a water-treatment plant in San Marcos. An alternative route would run through the desert to the south, boring under Mt. Laguna before emptying into the San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside. Estimated cost: roughly $5 billion. New water delivered: None.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun

Southern Nevada can’t afford to get complacent about water conservation

For years, Southern Nevadans have watched the water level in Lake Mead inch downward and wondered how long we could avoid the federally mandated rationing that kicks in when the lake elevation hits certain thresholds. Now comes a forecast bearing worrisome news. For the second time since 2019, we may be in for a reduction. A study issued last month by the Bureau of Reclamation says the lake level could dip below 1,075 feet by the end of the year.

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Aquafornia news AZ Central

Opinion: If Queen Creek gets more Colorado River now, brace for WW III

Comedian Ron White once joked that we should have two levels of national security warnings: Find a helmet and put on a helmet. If such a system were in place for controversies, Arizona’s water community would now be in the “put on a helmet” stage. Tensions were already high over a proposal to transfer Colorado River water from a farm in La Paz County to Queen Creek. And now that the recommendation has quietly changed, some folks in on-river communities view it as nothing less than the start of World War III. Heaven help us if it is. 
-Written by Joanna Allhands, a columnist for the Arizona Republic

Aquafornia news Utah Public Radio

The Colorado River basin’s worsening dryness in five numbers

Dry conditions are the worst they’ve been in almost 20 years across the Colorado River watershed, which acts as the drinking and irrigation water supply for 40 million people in the American Southwest. As the latest round of federal forecasts for the river’s flow shows, it’s plausible, maybe even likely, that the situation could get much worse this year. Understanding and explaining the depth of the dryness is up to climate scientists throughout the basin. We called several of them and asked for discrete numbers that capture the current state of the Colorado River basin. 

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Tensions spark after plan to sell Colorado River water in Arizona

Mayors and county supervisors in towns along the Colorado River were already upset five months ago when the state water agency endorsed an investment company’s plan to take water from farmland near the river and sell it to a growing Phoenix suburb. Now, they’re incensed that the agency, which initially suggested holding back a large portion of the water, changed its stance and will let the company sell most of the water to the town of Queen Creek. Elected leaders in communities along the river say they intend to continue trying to stop the proposed deal, which would need to be approved by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. 

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Colorado River getting saltier sparks calls for federal help

Water suppliers along the drought-stricken Colorado River hope to tackle another tricky issue after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation installs a new leader: salty water. The river provides water for 40 million people from Colorado to California, and helps irrigate 5.5 million acres of farm and ranchland in the U.S. But all that water also comes with 9 million tons of salt that flow through the system as it heads to Mexico, both due to natural occurrence and runoff, mostly from agriculture. Salt can hurt crop production, corrode drinking water pipes, and cause other damage.

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Aquafornia news Mountain Town News

Are there rivers beyond the Colorado?

Jeff Lukas calls the Colorado the “charismatic megafauna of Western rivers.” This riverine equivalent of grizzly bears, bald eagles, and humpback whales gets lots of attention, including national attention. Some of that attention is deserved. It has the nation’s two largest reservoirs, among the nation’s tallest dams, and many of the most jaw-dropping canyons and eye-riveting national parks in the country. It also has 40 million to 50 million people in Colorado and six other southwestern states, plus Mexico, who depend upon its water, and a history of tensions that have at times verged on the political equivalent of fist-fights.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

Blog: Water Year 2021 – How are we doing?

We are now past the halfway mark in California’s normally wettest winter months, and the wet season to date has been anything but. Most of the state has received less than half of its average annual precipitation to date. Coming after a very dry Water Year 2020 these conditions are concerning. More precipitation will certainly occur in February and March, but will it be enough to erase the state’s large deficit?  

Aquafornia news The Colorado Sun

Colorado’s ornery, independent water guardians finally agree on one thing: Wall Street can look elsewhere

The calls came in shortly after the story in The New York Times announced Wall Street was on the prowl for “billions in the Colorado’s water.” …  The national story raised hackles across Colorado. It defined agriculture as a “wrong” use of Colorado River water and detailed a growing swarm of investors eager to inject Wall Street’s strategies into the West’s century-old water laws. The idea of private investment in public water has galvanized the state’s factious water guardians. 

Aquafornia news PV Magazine USA

Drought conditions could impact power generation in the West

Ongoing drought in parts of the West could trigger water conservation measures across seven states this year. It would mark the first time that cutbacks outlined in drought contingency plans drafted two years ago have been put in place. Everything from hydroelectric power generation to agricultural production to the bubbling fountains at Las Vegas casinos could be impacted. Impacts on hydro generation could have ripple effects across the Southwest, including solar and energy storage.

Aquafornia news Public News Service

Satellite data, teamwork help chart future of Colorado River basin

The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the American West, but the viability of the massive river basin is being threatened by climate change. To plan future water use in the region — which includes Arizona — the Central Arizona Project is teaming up with NASA and Arizona State University, to evaluate how climate and land-use changes will affect patterns of hydrology. Using state-of-the-art satellite imaging, scientists will measure and evaluate how water flows throughout the basin. 

Aquafornia news UC California Naturalist

Blog: Have you heard the story of Lake Cahuilla?

The building of dams on the Colorado River has forever changed the ebb and flow, flooding, drying and renewal cycle of what was once Lake Cahuilla, changing its character and changing its name to the Salton Sea. Entrepreneurs once thought that the Salton Sea would become a sportsman’s mecca, providing fishing, boating, and waterskiing experiences like no other. There were a few decades where that dream seemed to be true. Then it wasn’t.

Aquafornia news Denver Post

Opinion: Collaboration will protect the Colorado River from drought and speculation alike

Colorado is headwaters to a hardworking river that provides for 40 million people. The importance of the Colorado River to the state and the nation cannot be overstated, and its recent hydrology serves as a reminder that we must continue to find workable solutions that will sustain the river. History shows that we are up to the challenge. As Colorado’s commissioner and lead negotiator on Colorado River issues, it is my job to protect Colorado’s interests in the river.
-Written by Rebecca Mitchell, Colorado’s current Colorado River Commissioner and director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.  

Aquafornia news Magic Valley

Opinion: Writers on the Range – Who calls the shots on the Colorado River?

If there’s a dominant force in the Colorado River Basin these days, it’s the Walton Family Foundation, flush with close to $5 billion to give away. Run by the heirs of Walmart founder Sam Walton, the foundation donates $25 million a year to nonprofits concerned about the Colorado River. It’s clear the foundation cares deeply about the river in this time of excruciating drought, and some of its money goes to river restoration or more efficient irrigation. Yet its main interest is promoting “demand management,” the water marketing scheme that seeks to add 500,000 acre-feet of water to declining Lake Powell by paying rural farmers to temporarily stop irrigating.

Aquafornia news Desert Research Institute

Blog: What happens when rain falls on desert soils? An updated model provides answers

Several years ago, while studying the environmental impacts of large-scale solar farms in the Nevada desert, Desert Research Institute scientists Yuan Luo, Ph.D. and Markus Berli, Ph.D. became interested in one particular question: how does the presence of thousands of solar panels impact desert hydrology? This question led to more questions. “How do solar panels change the way water hits the ground when it rains?” they asked. “Where does the water go? How much of the rain water  stays in the soil? How deep does it go into the soil?”

Aquafornia news The Spectrum

Opinion: Utah must follow Nevada’s lead on water management

Many in Utah think of Las Vegas as a colony of water waste. Fountains, swimming pools, golf courses and lawns come to mind. While those things exist, they are not as widespread as they once were – nor as profligate. Today, Southern Nevada, with a small share of the Colorado River and limited groundwater, is an emblem of responsible water use. Southern Utah is not. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
-Written by Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network.

Aquafornia news Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

News release: Metropolitan Water District, Southern Nevada Water Authority collaborate to explore development of recycled water project

In a bold step toward a new kind of collaboration in the Colorado River Basin, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority are partnering to explore development of a drought-proof water supply that could reduce reliance on the over-stressed river.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun

Opinion: Will others follow SNWA’s lead on conservation?

Water conservation isn’t cheap. But it’s not as pricey as 300-mile pipelines and water grabs. Last week, the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s board passed its 2020 Water Resource Plan — a blueprint detailing the water purveyor’s estimates for supply and demand in a world with a declining Colorado River, spiking temperatures and increasing populations.
-Written by Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting water resources in the nation’s driest places.

Aquafornia news High Country News

A little fish that’s mighty as a mountain

In early November, the Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names voted unanimously to name a peak in Nevada’s Amargosa Valley, outside of Death Valley National Park, for the endangered Devils Hole and the Ash Meadows Amargosa pupfishes.

Aquafornia news Western Water

Monday Top of the Scroll: Milestone Colorado River management plan mostly worked amid epic drought, review finds

Twenty years ago, the Colorado River’s hydrology began tumbling into a historically bad stretch. … So key players across seven states, including California, came together in 2005 to attack the problem. The result was a set of Interim Guidelines adopted in 2007… Stressing flexibility instead of rigidity, the guidelines stabilized water deliveries in a drought-stressed system and prevented a dreaded shortage declaration by the federal government that would have forced water supply cuts.

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Aquafornia news Phys.org

Climate change and ‘atmospheric thirst’ to increase fire danger and drought in NV and CA

In a new study published in Earth’s Future…climate change projections show consistent future increases in atmospheric evaporative demand (or the “atmospheric thirst”) over California and Nevada. These changes were largely driven by warmer temperatures, and would likely lead to significant on-the-ground environmental impacts.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Public Radio

USGS report: Climate change will reduce groundwater in Lower Colorado River Basin

The lower Colorado River Basin, which is primarily in Arizona, is projected to have as much as sixteen percent less groundwater infiltration by midcentury compared to the historical record. That’s because warming temperatures will increase evaporation while rain- and snowfall are expected to remain the same or decrease slightly.

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Aquafornia news Casino.org

Will Vegas run out of water?

For a city built in an arid desert basin in Nevada, the USA’s driest state with around 10 inches of rainfall a year, this doesn’t sound too surprising. But the climate emergency and recent droughts have changed the complexion and urgency of the problem.

Aquafornia news Nevada Today

Blog: Researchers quantify carbon changes in Sierra Nevada meadow soils

Meadows in the Sierra Nevada are critical components of watersheds. In addition to supplying water to over 25 million people in California and Nevada, meadows contain large quantities of carbon belowground. … A new study led by researchers at the University of Nevada Reno demonstrates for the first time that meadows throughout the region are both gaining and losing carbon at high rates.

Aquafornia news Deseret News

Why understanding snowpack could help the overworked Colorado River

The U.S. Geological Survey is in the beginning stages of learning more about this river via an expanded and more sophisticated monitoring system that aims to study details about the snowpack that feeds the river basin, droughts and flooding, and how streamflow supports groundwater, or vice versa.

Aquafornia news KUNC

2020 delivers setbacks for some long-planned Western water projects

Proposals to divert water in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah have run up against significant legal, financial and political roadblocks this year. But while environmental groups have cheered the setbacks, it’s still unclear whether these projects have truly hit dead ends or are simply waiting in the wings.

Aquafornia news Northern Nevada Business Weekly

Norwegian company secures financing for industrial-scale salmon farm in rural Nevada

Raising salmon in the desert seems like an unlikely mission, but that is exactly what Norwegian-based West Coast Salmon AS intends to do. The company announced in early October it had secured a first round of financing for a land-based Atlantic salmon farm facility south of Winnemucca near the Humboldt/Pershing County line.

Aquafornia news University of Nevada, Reno

News release: New lab opens in Reno to support agricultural research

Located at the Knudtsen Resource Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, the lab will provide agriculture-focused analytical services to support faculty- and student-led research at the University. The lab is also offering analytical services for a fee to the general public, including property owners and homeowners, who may need to have soil or water samples analyzed.

Aquafornia news Phys.org

Colorado River water supply is predictable owing to long-term ocean memory

A team of scientists at Utah State University has developed a new tool to forecast drought and water flow in the Colorado River several years in advance. Although the river’s headwaters are in landlocked Wyoming and Colorado, water levels are linked to sea surface temperatures in parts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the water’s long-term ocean memory.

Aquafornia news Inkstain.net

Blog: Happy New Water Year, where’d all that Colorado River water go?

Despite that reduction in flow, total storage behind Glen Canyon and Hoover dams has dropped only 2.6 million acre feet. That is far less than you’d expect from 12 years of 1.2 maf per year flow reductions alone. That kind of a flow reduction should have been enough to nearly empty the reservoirs. Why hasn’t that happened? Because we also have been using less water.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Nevada Supreme Court holds that state may not reallocate adjudicated water rights for public trust

On September 17, 2020, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a decision on whether Nevada’s public trust doctrine permits reallocation of water rights previously settled under Nevada’s prior appropriation doctrine. The majority found that the public trust doctrine does not permit such reallocation.

Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

In correcting misappropriation of water, Nevada must balance legal rights with existing use

In the area that the Moapa Valley Water District serves, water users are facing an uncomfortable future: People are going to have to use less water than they were once promised. Over the last century, state regulators handed out more groundwater rights than there was water available. Today state officials say that only a fraction of those rights can be used, which could mean cuts.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Nevada dam changes give rare trout new life 115 years later

U.S. and tribal officials are celebrating completion of a $34 million fish bypass system at a Nevada dam that will allow a threatened trout species to return to some of its native spawning grounds for the first time in more than a century. Construction of the side channel with fish-friendly screens is a major step toward someday enabling Lahontan cutthroat trout to make the same 100-mile journey — from a desert lake northeast of Reno to Lake Tahoe atop the Sierra — that they did before the dam was built in 1905.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun

Editorial: Using Lake Powell to keep lawns green in Utah would be a waste of resources

The recent downgrade in the forecast for the flow of water in the Colorado River should be a death punch to the proposal to build a new pipeline out of Lake Powell. The pipeline was already a major threat to Las Vegas and much of the rest of the Southwest; now the threat risk is heading off the charts.

Aquafornia news The Sierra Nevada Ally

Walker Lake: Legal saga continues with endgame in question

According to river flow data, there is currently almost no water flowing into Walker Lake, a common condition. Today, where the riverbed meets the lake is an ooze of mud. The lake is all but biologically dead. But a decades-old public trust lawsuit made a move forward in its glacial process through federal courts last week, and advocates are hopeful Walker Lake, a cornerstone of the regional economy and ecology, can one day be revived.

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Partnership celebrates restoration of Truckee River fish passage to historical spawning grounds

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Reclamation joined its partners, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Farmers Conservation Alliance, to celebrate the completion of the Derby Dam Fish Screen Project. The infrastructure modernization project at Derby Dam will provide Lahontan Cutthroat Trout access to natural spawning grounds for the first time since 1905.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Walker Lake group to take water suit back to federal court

Lawyers representing Mineral County and the Walker Lake Working Group announced this week they intend to take a water rights case with broad implications back to federal appeals court to ask whether Nevada can adjust already allocated water rights to sustain rivers and lakes long-term.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun

This year’s monsoon season in Las Vegas? More like a ‘nonsoon’

The monsoon season — that period from mid-June through September that each year brings rains to the Mojave Desert and other areas of the Southwest from the tropical coast of Mexico — has been a dud this year. Las Vegas is in the middle of a record-breaking stretch without rain, and residents should be prepared for it to stay that way, scientists say.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Opponents of Colorado River pipeline project view delay as progress

Regional water conservation groups and a Clark County commissioner welcomed a request by Utah officials Thursday to extend the federal environmental review of a controversial plan to divert billions of gallons of water from the Colorado River to southwest Utah.

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Aquafornia news Utah State University

Blog: How well do we understand numbers in the Colorado River basin?

We analysed data reported by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U. S. Geological Survey that describe the primary inflows to Lake Powell and the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead, as well as the losses from both reservoir and the releases from Hoover Dam. … The significance of the uncertainties we identify can be measured by reminding the reader that the annual consumptive uses by the state of Nevada cannot exceed 300,000 acre feet/year…