U.S. Water News Online
PHOENIX -- If drought conditions persist, the federal
government reportedly will reduce water deliveries on the lower
Colorado River as early as 2006.
A top water official said Interior Secretary Gale Norton will
impose the cutbacks unless Arizona and the other six states that use
the river's water agree on a drought-management plan of their own.
The seven states were given an April 1 deadline to submit such a
If Norton declares a shortage on the river, water will be cut
first from the Central Arizona Project, the 336-mile canal that
serves Phoenix, Tucson and Pinal County.
Arizona officials say any early shortages would affect mostly
A good winter runoff could delay cutbacks, perhaps for years, but
federal officials say the states still must agree on a shortage plan
so that future decisions won't be made in the midst of a crisis.
The government also wants safeguards in place to protect power
production at Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam in northern Arizona.
"The reality is here, and it's time to deal with the shortages
now," said Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles, speaking at the
annual Colorado River Water Users Association conference in Las
Vegas. "We have no option, and if we have to, we will move ahead with
a plan to reduce deliveries in the Lower Basin."
Norton issued a similar warning in late 2002 when she told
California water agencies to agree on a water use plan or face the
loss of surplus water from the river.
When the agencies failed to meet the deadline, Norton followed
through and cut off part of their water supply.
Although the Interior Department can impose smaller deliveries
only to the lower river basin states of Arizona, Nevada and
California, such a move would reverberate into the Upper Basin, where
Colorado, Utah and the other states fear shortages.
The April 1 deadline was met with some skepticism from the seven
states, whose leaders were in Las Vegas for the annual conference.
Arizona officials said they will push for solutions that will
protect CAP customers without threatening the other states.
Those solutions could include something as simple as operating the
lower river more efficiently to avoid unnecessary water losses.
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