U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- California must meet a commitment to reduce
its dependence on Colorado River water over the next 15 years, a
federal Interior Department official has warned.
``If California is not successful, the results could be grave for
California,'' said Bennett Raley, the assistant interior secretary
who handles water issues.
Dennis Underwood, vice president of Colorado River Resources for
the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said he was
confident the goals will be met through conservation and agreements
to obtain water from other sources.
The urban water district serves 17 million people from Santa
Barbara to the Mexican border, but has to yield Colorado River water
rights to agricultural users in three other districts -- the Imperial
Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District, and the San
Diego County Water Authority.
``We're the lower priority, so we're the ones who would be hit the
hardest,'' Underwood said.
Raley, speaking to an annual Colorado River Water Users
Association conference, said several more dry years like 2001 could
limit other states' ability to send surplus water to California.
He acknowledged that a cut in water to Southern California would
have a ripple effect. He predicted battles about agricultural water
use and the possibility of a north-south water war in the state.
``In contrast,'' Raley said, ``we have so much to gain from
Raley said he was Interior Secretary Gale Norton's emissary to
complete an agreement that former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt
negotiated last year among California and the six other Colorado
River Basin states -- Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona,
It is due to be completed by December 2002.
Dubbed the ''4.4 Plan,'' it lets California receive surplus
Colorado River water that would otherwise go to the other states, in
return for California's pledge to reduce reliance on the river within
California is entitled to 4.4 million acre feet of water a year
under the 1928 Boulder Canyon Project Act. That agreement was upheld
by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964. Nevada is allotted 300,000 acre
feet. Arizona gets 2.8 million acre feet.
In recent years, California's annual draw has grown to as much as
800,000 acre feet above its allotment.
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