Banks along parts of the Colorado River where water once streamed are now just caked mud and rock as climate change makes the Western U.S. hotter and drier. More than two decades of drought have done little to deter the region from diverting more water than flows through it, depleting key reservoirs to levels that now jeopardize water delivery and hydropower production. Cities and farms in seven U.S. states are bracing for cuts this week as officials stare down a deadline to propose unprecedented reductions to their use of the water, setting up what’s expected to be the most consequential week for Colorado River policy in years. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in June told the states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — to determine how to use at least 15% less water next year, or have restrictions imposed on them. The bureau is also expected to publish hydrology projections that will trigger additional cuts already agreed to.
Representatives from the seven states convened in Denver last week for last minute negotiations behind closed doors. Those discussions have yet to produce concrete proposals, but officials party to them say the most likely targets for cuts are Arizona and California farmers. Agricultural districts in those states are asking to be paid generously to bear that burden. The proposals under discussion, however, fall short of what the Bureau of Reclamation has demanded and, with negotiations stalling, state officials say they hope for more time to negotiate details. “Despite the obvious urgency of the situation, the last sixty-two days produced exactly nothing in terms of meaningful collective action to help forestall the looming crisis,” John Entsminger, the General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority wrote in a letter on Monday. He called the agricultural district demands “drought profiteering.”
Last year, federal officials for the first time declared a water shortage, triggering cuts to Nevada, Arizona and Mexico’s share of the river to help prevent the two largest reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — from dropping low enough to threaten hydropower production and stop water from flowing through their dams. The proposals for supplemental cuts due this week have inflamed disagreement between upper basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — and lower basin states — Arizona, California and Nevada — over how to spread the pain. The lower basin states use most of the water and have thus far shouldered most of the cuts. The upper basin states have historically not used their full allocations but want to maintain water rights to plan for population growth.
https://apnews.com/article/science-ariz ... a892a8b690Arizona will probably be hit hard with reductions. The state over the past few years shouldered many of the cuts. With its growing population and robust agricultural industry, it has less wiggle room than its neighbors to take on more, said Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke. Some Native American tribes in Arizona have also contributed to propping up Lake Mead in the past, and could play an outsized role in any new proposal. Irrigators around Yuma, Arizona, have proposed taking 925,000 acre-feet less of Colorado River water in 2023 and leaving it in Lake Mead if they’re paid $1.4 billion, or $1,500 per acre-foot. The cost is far above the going rate, but irrigators defended their proposal as fair considering the cost to grow crops and get them to market. Some of the compensation-for-conservation funds could come from a $4 billion in drought funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act under consideration in Washington, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona told the AP. Sinema acknowledged that paying farmers to conserve is not a long-term solution: “In the short-term, however, in order to meet our day-to-day needs and year-to-year needs, ensuring that we’re creating financial incentives for non-use will help us get through,” she said.
Looks like So Cal cities will be coughing up money to farmers to get them to fallow their land, so the wealthy can fill their swimming pools. There go our taxes. My water is from the Colorado River and my monthly bill is mostly paying off the debt on the pipeline.
The West needs to come up with plans especially inland states and it will probably involve desalination on a major scale.