U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- Seven states dependent on the Colorado River
filed a plan with the Interior Department aimed at divvying up water
resources during times of drought.
Officials said the long-debated pact would protect 30 million
people who depend on the river for drinking water.
"The adversity of drought has brought the states together and
forced us to rethink how we manage this precious resource," said
George Caan, executive director of Nevada's Colorado River
Under rules that date to the 1920s, the four upper Colorado River
basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are obligated
to let 8.23 million acre feet of water per year flow to three lower
basin states -- Arizona, California and Nevada.
Under the proposed plan, the upper basin states could release less
water downstream during a drought and if a less-than-average snowpack
accumulates on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
The lower basin states would adjust through what the plan calls
"intentionally created surpluses." For example, the Southern Nevada
Water Authority would be able to tap water holdings in the Coyote
Spring area of Nevada and exercise its rights to draw water from the
Virgin and Muddy rivers. Water for agriculture in Southern California
could be "banked" in Lake Mead for future use if farmlands are
allowed to go fallow.
The proposal also contains a promise from the authority to help
finance construction of a reservoir in Southern California's Imperial
Valley, near the Mexico border.
Kay Brothers, the water authority's deputy general manager, said
the plan calls for enough water to be released from Lake Powell, the
reservoir behind the Glen Canyon Dam along the Arizona-Utah state
line, to ensure Lake Mead doesn't drop below 1,025 feet above sea
The plan was submitted to the Bureau of Reclamation and will be
reviewed by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Las Vegas-based Southern Nevada
Water Authority, called the proposal "critical" to southern Nevada,
which is near its limit of drawing 300,000 acre feet of water per
year from the Lake Mead reservoir formed by Hoover Dam.
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