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Western States Reach Agreement to Cut Colorado River Water Consumption

Western States Reach Agreement to Cut Colorado River Water Consumption

The deal-makers are happy. Everyone else, less so.

Seven U.S. states that depend on the Colorado River reached a historic agreement to cut consumption from the source that supplies water for 40 million people and irrigation for some of the nation’s most important agricultural areas.

Arizona, California and Nevada have agreed to take less water from the drought-strained Colorado River, a breakthrough agreement that, for now, keeps the river from falling so low that it would jeopardize water supplies for major Western cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles as well as for some of America’s most productive farmland.

The agreement, announced Monday, calls for the federal government to pay about $1.2 billion to irrigation districts, cities and Native American tribes in the three states if they temporarily use less water. The states have also agreed to make additional cuts beyond the ones tied to the federal payments to generate the total reductions needed to prevent the collapse of the river.

Taken together, those reductions would amount to about 13 percent of the total water use in the lower Colorado Basin — among the most aggressive ever experienced in the region, and likely to require significant water restrictions for residential and agriculture uses.

Under the terms of the proposed deal, federal officials would compensate users of the water for most of their reductions.

The 1,450-mile Colorado River is a lifeblood for the Southwest, supplying drinking water to 40 million people, irrigating 5.5 million acres of farmland and accounting for an estimated 16 million jobs. However, its flow has steadily declined over the past two decades amid the worst drought to hit the region in 1,200 years, according to a University of California, Los Angeles-led study earlier this year.

As a result, states that rely on the water have had to undergo steadily increasing conservation, which has reduced farm acreage and started to put pressure on cities. Arizona, because it has the lowest seniority rights on the Colorado, has been hit the most with some farm areas losing as much as half their growing area after cuts were made last year.

The latest cuts would largely come from farms, cities and tribes in the river’s lower basin, some of which have agreed not to use water in Lake Mead they were entitled to, given the record amounts of water that accumulated throughout the West this winter, state officials said.

Arizona officials called the cuts more equitable than under a past proposal by California which would have allocated the water largely in keeping with the priority system, which was first established a century ago when rights to the Colorado were divided up.

Of course, the climate cultists are not happy with the deal.

Some environmental activists criticized the short-term deal as being a far cry from what’s needed.

“The feds just want a deal. Is it the right deal? Absolutely not,” said John Weisheit, an activist who co-founded the group Living Rivers. “Where is the climate adaptation deal? There isn’t one.

Californians also have a few thoughts.

And we Californians are also bracing for inevitable restrictions.

“California really saw improvement this year in water resources,” Jack Wesley, a water systems consultant for farms and multi-family homes, told the Globe Monday. “The snowpack in April was at two and a half times where it needed to be to provide enough water for most of the state this year, and our reservoirs are brimming with water again. The only real trouble spot has been along the Colorado River, because it just hasn’t been recovering and there aren’t too many large scale reservoirs out there.”

“So, a lot of areas that didn’t get water saved up during the first part of this year are going to have to cut back now by 13%, which means restrictions will be coming back. We don’t know the degree yet, or where exactly they will be, but they’ll happen. I’m not sure if it means the water police will be coming back to LA, but it will mean, at the very least, messages about being careful about usage will return. Tickets for washing your own car with a running hose? Remains to be seen. But they did just announce this to say, so when summer gets closer, you can expect some restrictions and city announcements to come. And if you’re a farmer in the area, you’ll probably get a letter soon about what it means for you.”


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henrybowman | May 23, 2023 at 8:00 pm

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers ask: How can money get a tribe through times of no water?

There will always be water wars in the West and California will always be a greedy bitch, with her hand out, demanding more.

They could have doubled their desalination capacity too.

Of course w/out electricity they are screwed on that one.

I would now bet on massive flooding on the Colorado river within that timeframe.

One way to cut down on water consumption, food consumption, expenses for shelter, buses, cell phone purchases, medical, etc, etc—is to close the border.

    henrybowman in reply to Peabody. | May 24, 2023 at 3:05 am

    Note that Mexico gets a defined treaty portion of water rights from the Colorado, too.

      Paula in reply to henrybowman. | May 24, 2023 at 5:13 pm

      With half their citizens crossing the border to freeload on this side using our water on this side, plus having a treaty to guarantee their rights on that side as well—they are able to have their cake and eat it too.

How about deport the 40 million illegals that are concentrated in California, Nevada, Az amd Texas

Less strain on the system

Won’t need them when we can’t farm ( that’s always the bs pitch, “who will pick the cotton” only 5% of illegals work the farms…

Build a few reservoirs idiots all

Strange people are finally figuring out that the South West is a desert. In fact, everything between the Cascades and the Rockies is pretty dry. Where the water to support all those people moving in has always been a mystery.

    CommoChief in reply to diver64. | May 24, 2023 at 7:38 am

    Good point. If you build a city in arid or semi arid place like Las Vegas and keep expanding the population and the draw on water eventually you run short. The solution, IMO, is to divide the water into % for residential, commercial and agricultural, then stick to those %. Add another 20K people and they share the residential % which means less for everyone in that category. Instead they keep avoiding this by jacking the water from agriculture.

      Peabody in reply to CommoChief. | May 24, 2023 at 11:07 pm

      Perhaps Elon Musk’s new business venture will be well-drilling equipment to pump water from deep, deep, deep underground acquifiers.

Where does the newly re-filled Tulare Lake fit into this situation? There are farmers in California whose fields are now underwater and would like to get rid of it. It would seem that Tulare Lake could help LA with its water shortage.

    docduracoat in reply to leon0112. | May 24, 2023 at 9:02 am

    The California Coastal Commission has forbidden any new desalination plants.
    Although I will say they approved the small Doheney plant.
    They rejected the Huntington Beach desalination plant.

    So California will just have to continue with the 12 existing plants, plus the Doheny plant which comes online in 5 years.

    Maybe they could build some reservoirs?
    And a few nuclear power plants?

    No, they refuse to plan for a future life of prosperity

      Dimsdale in reply to docduracoat. | May 24, 2023 at 2:12 pm

      No water, no electricity, no brains. The new CA motto.

      Andy in reply to docduracoat. | May 24, 2023 at 2:43 pm

      I read up on desal after seeing this article- but since it’s california, I wonder whether the desal ban is justified by science vs virtue signaling.

      Since its Cali… I guess the latter plus gross mismanagement.

chrisboltssr | May 24, 2023 at 10:53 am

Unbelievable. Both coasts should be net exporters of water into the mainland. We have desalination technology that could bring in billions of gallons of water daily, but we just let that technology languish. We don’t build enough aqueducts or aquifers and we don’t build enough reservoirs. The Great Lake states can also be net exporters of water.

This country had been completely mismanaged and poorly run by people who think they are smarter than everyone else. They keep acting like there are only one solution to a problem and ignore every other solution as a waste of time or money.

    CommoChief in reply to chrisboltssr. | May 24, 2023 at 11:07 am

    That’s a good point especially about lack of willingness to build reservoirs and pipelines in States with a rain/drought cycle such as CA.

    On the other hand, to paraphrase Sam Kinison, people could choose to live where the water is on a reliable basis instead of choosing to live in arid or semi arid climates where water supply is more scarce.

    Jeff Cox in reply to chrisboltssr. | May 24, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Why should the people of the Great Lakes export their water so other people can live in a desert? Especially since California has the Pacific Coast but refuses to use it.

    You want to live in a desert? Get your own water.

      chrisboltssr in reply to Jeff Cox. | May 24, 2023 at 1:10 pm

      Yeah, why should the state of Oregon cut down its trees to send those to the Midwest states? Why should Texas dig up its oil to send to the Midwest states? Why should Arizona dig up its copper to send to the Midwest states? Why should West Virginia dig up its coal to send to the Midwest states?

      I didn’t say anything about sharing resources. When I say the states should be net exporters of water they can sell the water to other states AFTER they take care of their own states (thus, the term “net”). We should be getting our water from a variety of sources and not keeping it regional.

      America has lots of resources, but we don’t want to exploit them because we believe we have to save the planet or some dumb nonsense.

        CommoChief in reply to chrisboltssr. | May 24, 2023 at 2:07 pm

        Many big companies in CA are already doing it but not on a net basis. Aquafina, Desani, Niagara among many other companies with water rights bottle CA water, despite scarcity within the State, and sell it elsewhere at a profit.

        IMO before CA or any other State demands or asks for water or other resources from another State, such as energy in any form they should be maximizing their own resources within their borders and prioritizing the well being of their State population.

        Jeff Cox in reply to chrisboltssr. | May 24, 2023 at 10:24 pm

        Well, that’s the trick, ain’t it? “Taking care of your own states” means different things to different people. Few people move to Texas for the oil, or West Virginia for the coal, The forests are a major point Oregon markets as a benefit to potential residents, so they protect (some would say “overprotect”) its forests. The Great Lakes are also a major benefit to residents. Unlike Oregon’s forests, you can’t divide up the water of the Great Lakes between owners, except in the sense of the US and Canada, and the latter would have a lot to say, probably negative. You take water from the Great Lakes, you reduce the water for everyone there.

        You want water? Move someplace where there is water. Don’t move to a waterless desert and demand that smarter people who decided to live near water sell you theirs. You wanted sun? You got sun. You don’t have water. Lose this entitlement mentality.

Another Voice | May 24, 2023 at 11:50 am

California has been given $128 Billion, $28 B. from State Tax Payers and $100 Billion from Federal Tax payers (& in part also Cal. Fed. Tax payers) for the Bullet Train to no where and nowhere near completion.
This while their dams upstate which are at user end dates of 75-100 years have received little to minimal maintenance. The last dam built was in 1980 and half way through it’s life cycle.
While Calif. elected and who set their priorities for the state infrastructure, obviously supporting the ag. industry that requires water and produces near 12% of our countries produce @ $22.5 Billion annually does not have the same priority as a ‘Bullet Train to No Where’.
When Democrats set policies and priorities for sound bytes, can you expect anything other than incompetence.

BiteYourTongue | May 24, 2023 at 12:37 pm

AZ resident here, if I have to cut back on water, the federal government needs to cut back on illegals that use our water illegally.

they are going to deport aliens?