If states agree to Colorado River water cuts (which is iffy), they may not be big enough

The Colorado River near Moab, Utah. The entire Colorado River Basin currently supports 50 million people, and that amount is expected to increase by 23 million between 2000 and 2030. A new USGS study shows more than half of the streamflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin originates as groundwater. /Credit: USGS

Opinion: Even if states agree to use 2 million acre-feet less water, the minimum suggested to prop up Lake Mead and Lake Powell, that won’t fix things. We’ll be back to do more.

By Joanna Allhands |The Arizona Republic

Only a few days remain for the seven Colorado River basin states to agree on a plan to use drastically less water.

Bureau of Reclamation Director Camille Touton has directed all seven states to trim 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water next year – a cut that likely would have to be sustained through 2026. Maybe longer.

And if they don’t agree on a plan to do so by mid-August, the bureau has made it clear that it will step in to make the cut for them. Because Lake Mead and Lake Powell are tanking in a hurry, putting the infrastructure it oversees at risk.

But the states still seem far from a deal.

States keep putting the brunt of cuts on Arizona

The Desert Sun reports that California might be willing to cut up to 500,000 acre-feet, though sources told the newspaper that’s still a moving target. The state is expected to consume more than 4.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water this year.

Meanwhile, the Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico have already said that because the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada are doing more to deplete the river, they should bear the brunt of the cuts.

That would leave Nevada and Arizona to make up the difference.


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