We’ll use significantly less Colorado River water, no matter how this plays out

NASA’s satellite images show water levels in Lake Mead plummeting over the last 22 years./ NASA Earth Observatory

By Joanna Allhands | Arizona Republic

The federal Bureau of Reclamation has said that when it comes to cuts on the Colorado River, everyone must be in the pool. No state or sector should expect a pass.

But that’s not how it’s playing out in the final weeks of negotiations.

Reclamation wants all seven states that rely on the river to come up with a plan to trim 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water use. All in about eight weeks.

It’s an inordinate amount of water for states to suddenly agree not to use.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico – the states that comprise the Upper Basin of the river – have agreed that this is largely a problem for California, Arizona and Nevada – the states that make up the Lower Basin – to solve.

Getting the basins to agree will be tough

“Reclamation data shows that Lower Basin and Mexico depletions are more than double the depletions in the Upper Basin,” the states wrote in a letter to Reclamation last week. “Therefore, additional efforts to protect critical reservoir elevations must include significant actions focused downstream of Lake Powell.”

In other words, they tanked the lakes. Look to them first.


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