ARIZONA NEWS

Colorado River stable under current water cut plan for Arizona, California, Nevada

Oct 26, 2023, 6:26 AM

In this aerial photo, a bathtub ring of light minerals show the high water mark on the shore of Lak...

In this aerial photo, a bathtub ring of light minerals show the high water mark on the shore of Lake Mead along the border of Nevada and Arizona on March 6, 2023, near Boulder City, Nevada. (AP Photo/John Locher,File)

(AP Photo/John Locher,File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Federal officials said Wednesday that conditions have improved on the Colorado River to the point that a plan by California, Arizona and Nevada to voluntarily reduce water use should help keep the river basin on stable footing for the next few years.

The U.S. Department of the Interior said in a statement that the risk of reaching critically low water elevations at Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the river’s two key reservoirs, has gone down substantially.

“We have staved off the immediate possibility of the System’s reservoirs from falling to critically low elevations that would threaten water deliveries and power production,” Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement.

The river serves seven U.S. states, Native American tribes and two states in Mexico, supports a multibillion-dollar farm industry in the West and generates hydropower used across the region. Years of overuse by farms and cities and the effects of drought worsened by climate change has meant much less water flows through the river today than in previous decades.

But the announcement displays how much things have changed since summer 2022, when U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton said drastic cuts would be needed to stave off a crisis in the river. The states failed to reach a consensus on cuts, and the federal government did not end up forcing any.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration released two options that would have forced cuts on Arizona, California and Nevada either proportionally or based on the existing water priority system, which most benefits California. The threat of those two options finally forced the three states to reach their own voluntary plan for how to reduce their use of the river’s water.

In May, they proposed to help shore up water levels by conserving at least an additional 3 million acre feet of water through the end of 2026 in exchange for $1.2 billion in federal money.

Though the federal government needs to finish its regulatory process, Wednesday’s announcement indicates it is poised to officially accept that plan, said JB Hamby, chairman of the Colorado River Board of California and a board member at the Imperial Irrigation District, the largest user of the river’s water.

Federal money and a good winter that shored up water supplies across California and the West have helped changed the trajectory of negotiations, he said.

“This is a victory for collaboration as an approach rather than conflict, which is where we started,” Hamby said.

California will be responsible for more than half of the total cuts. Those could be achieved through things like implementing water efficiency measures and idling certain crops for months at a time, Hamby said previously.

Already, the three states have lowered their water use, said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the state’s representative on Colorado River issues. He said Arizona was on track this year to use about one-third less water than the amount it is allocated.

“Arizona’s conservation efforts alone have been substantial,” he said in a statement.

Now, the states can turn their attention to a new long-term agreement for how to share the river’s water beyond 2026.

Hamby said he looks forward to “using that momentum to start to build what the next 20 years looks like on the Colorado River.”

Not everyone was optimistic about the plan. Kyle Roerink of the Great Basin Water Network, a conservation group that has been critical of federal management of the river, said the latest proposal fails to take a hard look at the long-term challenges facing the system.

“The brink will be back, and I fear that hoopla surrounding this document will distract from the challenges that lie ahead,” he said in a statement.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Rabies warning issued after rabid fox bites two victims in Arizona...

Balin Overstolz McNair

Arizona wildlife agency talks rabies infection risk and prevention as temps increase

Arizona health officials are issuing a rabies warning as rising temperatures draw more animals out of hiding.

58 minutes ago

AZ Political Podcast: Garrett Archer talks election integrity...

Jim Sharpe

AZ Political Podcast: Election analyst Garrett Archer with ABC15 talks election integrity

On this episode of the AZ Political Podcast, Garrett Archer, a data analyst with ABC15, sits down with Jim Sharpe to talk about elections.

1 hour ago

Johnny Was, a bohemian-inspired brand developed in California, is set to open in Scottsdale Fashion...

SuElen Rivera

Johnny Was relocates to Scottsdale Fashion Square from Kierland Commons

Johnny Was, a bohemian-inspired brand developed in California, is set to open in Scottsdale Fashion Square on Friday after relocating from Kierland Commons.

1 hour ago

The exterior of the El Dorado Tech Center in Gilbert. PipShip, an ecommerce solutions company, sign...

Kevin Stone

E-commerce solutions company PipShip moving operations from Tempe to Gilbert

PipShip is relocating its distribution and e-commerce operations from Tempe to Gilbert, a move of about 8 miles.

1 hour ago

Iram Quintana...

KTAR.com

Phoenix police make arrest in 9-year-old cold case murder

The Phoenix Police Department arrested Iram Quintana, the main suspect of a 2014 cold case murder, on Tuesday.

7 hours ago

Live music and DJ sets are one of the main attractions during the Whoopee Daze Festival this weeken...

David Veenstra

Whoopee Daze Festival arrives in Tolleson this weekend

The Whoopee Daze Festival returns to Tolleson this weekend. The three-day festival features a parade, carnival rides, food trucks and crafts.

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

Colorado River stable under current water cut plan for Arizona, California, Nevada