Arizona loses one-fifth of its Colorado River allocation under new federal drought plan

Hoover Dam/Deposit photo

By Debra Utacia Krol | The Arizona Republic

The federal government will impose deeper cuts on the drought-stricken Colorado River, officials said on Tuesday, reducing water deliveries to Arizona by one-fifth starting in January.

The Bureau of Reclamation announced what it called “urgent action” as water levels in the river’s two largest reservoirs continue to drop. Under the steps outlined Tuesday, Arizona will lose 592,000 acre-feet of its river allocation in 2023, which represents 21% of its usual delivery. That’s an increase of 80,000 acre-feet from the 2022 cuts.

Nevada will give up 25,000 acre-feet, about 8% of its allocation and Mexico’s share will be cut by 104,000 acre-feet, or 7% of its allocation. California will not lose any of its share under the blueprint released Tuesday. 

These moves are meant to protect two major dams from structural damage and the ability to generate electric power. 

This chart shows the key water levels in Lake Mead, which is used to determine water deliveries for Arizona, Nevada and California.

“Prolonged drought is one of the most profound issues facing the U.S. today,” said Tommy Beaudreau, assistant Interior secretary.

Arizona water official: Proposed cuts are ‘unacceptable’

Arizona’s water managers suggested the plan was not enough and put too much of the burden on the Central Arizona Project, despite calls from the federal government to reduce water consumption across the river basin.

“It is unacceptable for Arizona to continue to carry a disproportionate burden of reductions for the benefit of others who have not contributed,” read a statement by Tom Buschatzke, director of the state Department of Water Resources and Ted Cooke, general manager of the CAP.  

They said a proposal put forth by Arizona was rejected.

Federal official acknowledged the urgency of the situation.

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