U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- A wet winter has made a little more water
available this year than last year to states that rely on the
Colorado River, a Bureau of Reclamation official told water managers
from seven states that draw from the river.
But fears of drought have the three states that rely on Lake Mead
agreeing not to touch the surplus this year, said Terrence Fulp, area
manager for the bureau's lower Colorado River regional operations
office in Boulder City, Nev.
"The states are saying that at this time, they are not planning to
take any additional water," Fulp said. "We don't know if the drought
is over or not."
Fulp made the comments after representatives of the seven states
met at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
Water administrators from Arizona, California and Nevada agreed in
a water management plan the bureau will send to Interior Secretary
Gale Norton not to tap the modest 300,000 acre-foot "domestic
surplus" that the federal river management agency is projecting for
the 2006 river year beginning Oct. 1.
However, the same three states opposed holding a meeting next
April to determine whether to change the amount of water released
from the bureau's upstream Lake Powell reservoir -- upon which
Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico rely.
The bureau releases 8.23 million acre-feet of water annually from
Lake Powell to Lake Mead in a process that officials compare to
pouring water from one cup to another. An acre-foot is about 326,000
gallons, or enough to serve one to two average households for one
Norton settled a dispute over those water releases last spring,
when the four upper-basin states argued that heavy winter rains had
filled Lake Mead enough to justify an unprecedented reduction in
water releases from Lake Powell, which had fallen to 34 percent
The interior secretary sided with California, Arizona and Nevada,
who maintained that holding water back at Lake Powell would threaten
the lower basin states' ability to draw water and power from Lake
Mead, which at the time was at 62 percent capacity.
Norton also said she wanted the states to talk again next April.
Fulp said that Lake Powell inflows this year are projected to be
106 percent of normal. The country's second-largest manmade lake and
one of two main reservoirs on the river, Lake Powell is projected to
be at 49 percent of capacity by the first of this month.
Even after getting more than twice its usual annual inflow, Lake
Mead's water level dropped slightly, Fulp said. The reservoir east of
Las Vegas is chronically overdrawn and is at 59 percent of capacity.
The hands-off approach by the lower-basin states could help raise
that level, Fulp said.
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