7 Colorado River States Miss Deadline for Water Reduction Plan
Seven states that depend on the drought-stricken Colorado River for water — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming — failed to meet a January 31 deadline requested by the federal government to come up with a plan to reduce their water consumption.
California, which has the largest share of water from the river, didn’t join a proposal put forth by the other six states and will release its own water use plan, officials have said.
“It’s easy to overlook how difficult and complex this is for every single state,” said Director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University Sarah Porter, as CNBC reported. “We have to take less water out of the system, and these are the hardest negotiations to do.”
The Colorado River has been reduced to historic lows due to a two-decade drought and climate change. The failure of all seven states to reach an agreement could lead to government-mandated reductions.
After the negotiations reached an impasse, the six states other than California submitted a water use reduction proposal — the “Consensus-Based Modeling Alternative” — to the Bureau of Reclamation outlining ways to cut water use that took into account water loss due to leaks and evaporation.
“We recognize that over the past twenty-plus years there is simply far less water flowing into the Colorado River system than the amount that leaves it, and that we have effectively run out of storage to deplete. Accordingly, we will continue to work together and with the federal government, water users, Basin Tribes, non-governmental organizations, and other Colorado River stakeholders to reach consensus on how best to share the burden of protecting the system from which we all derive so many benefits,” the proposal states.
The proposal includes water use cuts from the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs in order to keep them from reaching levels so low that there is no downstream flow, referred to as “dead pool,” reported BBC News.
The 1,450-mile-long Colorado River and its tributaries pass through seven U.S. states, two Mexican states and some of the biggest cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Forty million people, including Native American Tribes, depend on the river, as does an agricultural industry worth $5 billion per year.
The model proposed by the six states would lead to about two million acre-feet of reductions in the river’s Lower Basin, with smaller cuts in the Upper Basin, The Guardian reported. An acre-foot of water is enough for two to three U.S. households for a year.
“I don’t view not having unanimity at one step in that process to be a failure,” said General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority John Entsminger, as reported by The Guardian. “I think all seven states are still committed to working together.”