WESTERN WATER-Upper Colorado River States Add Muscle as Decisions Loom on the Shrinking River’s Future
Read our Western Water Notebook, Water Word of the Day and Five Don't-Miss Water Reads from Across the West
Dear Western Water readers:
The states of the Lower Colorado River Basin have traditionally played an oversized role in tapping the lifeline that supplies 40 million people in the West. California, Nevada and Arizona were quicker to build major canals and dams and negotiated a landmark deal that requires the Upper Basin to send predictable flows through the Grand Canyon, even during dry years.
But with the federal government threatening unprecedented water cuts amid decades of drought and declining reservoirs, the Upper Basin states of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are muscling up to protect their shares of an overallocated river. They have formed new agencies to better monitor their interests, moved influential Colorado River veterans into top negotiating posts and improved their relationships with Native American tribes that also hold substantial claims to the river.
The latest Western Water article explores how the Upper Basin states are doing more to look out for their own river interests and rallying to match the Lower Basin’s bargaining acumen. Read the full story here.
Water Around the West
Five don’t-miss articles from California and across the West:
Groundwater gold rush: Some of the world’s largest investment banks, pension funds and insurers have bought Central Valley farmland and are drilling newer, deeper wells and contributing to California’s legacy of groundwater depletion, according to a Bloomberg staff investigation.
Inside Calif.’s Klamath River dam removal project, the largest in US history: Ashley Harrell of SFGate breaks down the timeline and moving parts for the complex Klamath River dam removal project, which will cost an estimated $450 million to complete.
Water cuts could save the Colorado River. Farmers are in the crosshairs: The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow reports from California’s Imperial Valley, where farmers with some of the oldest legal rights to the Colorado River are rallying to defend their lifeblood and fend off big water cuts.
Steep, freezing and fast: California’s epic snowpack promises a whitewater rafting season for the ages: Following a wet winter, whitewater enthusiasts are stoked for what should be a banner – and long – rafting season on the state’s most storied rivers, writes Jack Dolan for the Los Angeles Times.
California’s farmers reeling as flooding wreaks havoc on dairy industry: Floodwaters gushing down from the record-deep southern Sierra Nevada snowpack have choked Central Valley farming and dairy operations and could cause billions of dollars in production losses, writes CalMatters’ Nicole Foy.
Water Word of the Day
The Colorado River Compact was a historic feat of cooperation that split up the iconic river among the seven Upper and Lower Basin states. The Compact is the cornerstone of the laws, court decisions and settlements that collectively are known as the Law of the River. But the demand for water has increased drastically across the seven Basin states, 30 tribes and country of Mexico since the Compact was signed in 1922. Meanwhile the river’s flows have dwindled in recent decades, making it harder and harder for the river to provide the fixed water amounts that are outlined in the landmark deal. As a result, the federal government, states and tribes are currently exploring operating plans that could deviate from the Compact’s water allocations. Learn more about the Colorado River Compact and other water-related issues in Aquapedia, our free online water encyclopedia.
At the Foundation
Registration is now open for our next two water tours — the popular Bay-Delta Tour, May 17-19, and the Headwaters Tour, June 21-22. The Bay-Delta Tour traverses the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource. The Headwaters Tour will take participants into the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills to explore the Tahoe and Eldorado national forests, plus stops along the Yuba and American rivers. Check our Water Tours page to learn more about each tour and find out where else we’re going in 2023.
More than 40 million people, seven states, more than two dozen Native American tribes and the country of Mexico depend on the Colorado River for their water supplies. Refresh your knowledge of the 1,450-mile-long river, also known as the “Lifeline of the Southwest”, with our Colorado River Basin Map and Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River. This Colorado River Bundle highlights tributaries and dams, covers the history of the river’s development and outlines the Law of the River.