U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne told water
officials from seven Western states recently that he expects an
agreement on sharing Colorado River water during periods of drought
"signed, sealed and delivered" next year.
Kempthorne used his first appearance before the annual Colorado
River Water Users Association conference to emphasize philosophy over
policy and consensus over conflict.
"I view my role less as a water master of the Colorado River than
as a mayor of the river," he said in his speech before several
hundred officials from states that draw water from the river. The
two-day conference was held at Caesars Palace.
Recalling his days as mayor of Boise, Idaho, Kempthorne made it
clear he intends to "take whatever steps are needed to ensure the
neighborhood runs properly."
"But only if and when such steps become necessary."
Kempthorne, a former Idaho governor and Republican senator, took
over as interior secretary in May from Gale Norton, who threatened
two years ago to impose a federal water-sharing plan if the seven
states using Colorado River water could not reach consensus.
A 1922 agreement allots each state a portion of some 15 million
acre feet of water a year flowing down the river to Mexico, which
also has water rights.
As southwestern U.S. cities have grown, the so-called lower basin
states of Nevada, California and Arizona have been pitted against the
upper basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. The
conflict has worsened in drought years.
An environmental study on a preliminary drought plan reached last
year was originally due to be released this month. It should be
issued in early February, said Bob Johnson, director of the Bureau of
Reclamation's lower Colorado River region.
"I urge you to keep the momentum going," Kempthorne told the water
officials, "so that we can have a final Environmental Impact
Statement signed, sealed and delivered by the end of next year."
"This is a critical time, perhaps even an historic time, in the
Colorado basin," he added.
Two years ago the upper basin states asked the Bureau of
Reclamation to cut releases of water from the Glen Canyon Dam to help
refill Lake Powell, which had dropped to about 49 percent capacity
due to drought. The level has since increased to about 51 percent,
Lower basin states said reducing water releases would hurt
downstream users and jeopardize Lake Mead, which is at 55 percent
Kempthorne noted that he signed a 2007 annual operating plan
calling for the release of 8.23 million acre feet of water next year
from Lake Powell -- the same amount as in recent years.
He also endorsed efforts under Water 2025, a program that Norton
began, to encourage Indian tribes, states and local water agencies to
improve conservation and efficiency.
He said President Bush intends to sign a measure passed by
Congress calling for lining a 23-mile stretch of the All-American
Canal in Southern California with concrete to prevent water seepage.
Environmentalists and Mexican officials have joined forces in a
legal battle that has stalled the project. They claim Mexican farmers
near the border rely on seepage water to irrigate their crops.
the U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.