U.S. States Agree on ‘Historic’ Water Sharing Deal to Prevent Colorado River From Drying Up
Following months of talks concerning the severe drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin, the U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that representatives from seven Colorado River Basin states have agreed to the submission of a proposal by representatives of three Lower River Basin states — California, Nevada and Arizona — to take billions fewer gallons of water from the dwindling river.
The three Lower Basin states will reduce their water intake by three million acre-feet — equal to 13 percent of their allotment from the river — through 2026.
In a statement from The White House, President Joe Biden said the “agreement between the Department of the Interior and seven Colorado River Basin states on a consensus-based approach marks an important step forward in our efforts to protect the stability of the Colorado River System in the face of climate change and historic drought conditions.”
Millions of people depend on the river for their drinking water — including residents of Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles — and it is used to generate power and irrigate swaths of farmland.
“There are 40 million people, seven states, and 30 Tribal Nations who rely on the Colorado River Basin for basic services such as drinking water and electricity,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in a press release from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
If an agreement had not been reached, cuts may have been levied by the federal government, likely leading to a succession of legal actions, reported Reuters.
Federal funds from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will be used to provide $1.2 billion in grants for the reductions.
However, the IRA will not compensate states for 700,000 acre-feet of the water reductions, CNN reported. Of those, JB Hamby, California’s lead Colorado River negotiator, said most of California’s share would come from the supply of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Los Angeles’ water provider.
The water district said that, following record-breaking rainfall and snowpack levels, it wouldn’t need to take as much water from the Lake Mead reservoir.
While officials from Arizona weren’t sure where they would get more uncompensated cuts, they said solid winter snowpack had helped state reservoir levels.
“The good winter helped us in a way that we could take advantage of that good hydrology, but we’re not relying upon that good hydrology,” said Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke, according to CNN. “We started to see that we could protect the system, we could build elevation in the system, and that we didn’t have to have an outcome in which anybody needed to have additional costs imposed against them.”
The agreement between the River Basin states still faces a federal environmental review. It also does not include Native American Tribes and Mexico, two major recipients of water from the river, reported Reuters. The Tribes hold water rights that entitle them to an estimated one-fourth to one-third of its supply, and, under a 1944 treaty with the U.S., Mexico gets 1.5 million acre-feet annually.
Beginning in 2027, the seven states will need to start work on a deal for the long haul that doesn’t rely too much on federal funding or particularly wet years ahead, especially considering the effects of climate change.
“There are significantly more difficult things in the future that are going to have to be agreed to,” said John Entsminger, Nevada’s representative and general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, as Reuters reported.
The post U.S. States Agree on ‘Historic’ Water Sharing Deal to Prevent Colorado River From Drying Up appeared first on EcoWatch.