The odds are looking increasingly poor that Arizona and other Western states will meet a March 4 federal deadline for wrapping up Colorado River drought plans. That’s not just because of the ongoing conflict over a now-shelved water rights bill for Eastern Arizona that prompted a threat from the Gila River Indian Community to bolt this state’s drought plan. It’s also not just because of a Southern California irrigation district’s efforts to secure $200 million in U.S. funds to shore up the dying Salton Sea. Without that money, the Imperial Irrigation District — which holds more Colorado River rights than anyone else — says it won’t sign onto the drought plan that is supposed to cover all seven river basin states.
Earlier this week, the Star interviewed longtime Arizona Sierra Club leader Sandy Bahr on her view that the proposed Colorado River drought contingency plan legislation for Arizona is a pathway to unsustainable growth, not a bridge to a sustainable Colorado River future. Today, Kevin Moran, leader of an Arizona environmental coalition backing the drought plan, responds to Bahr, and answers questions about the coalition’s support.
For years, advocates for a drought-contingency plan for the Colorado River have said it’s all that stands between us and catastrophe for Lake Mead. They say the plan, by limiting our take from the lake for the Central Arizona Project for the next seven years, will prevent or at least delay the time that the lake drops so low it will be impossible to get virtually any water out of it.
Four key issues remain unsettled as negotiators for a Colorado River drought-adaptation plan wrap up discussions and prepare to send a complex package of water-saving proposals to the Arizona Legislature. Farmers, developers and officials of the $4 billion Central Arizona Project said Tuesday they still aren’t satisfied with various provisions in a proposed drought contingency plan aimed at propping up imperiled Lake Mead. Because of that, negotiations over details will probably have to continue even when the Legislature starts debating the plan next week.
Tucson’s drinking water supply — carries nearly 20 percent less water than in 2000. Bark beetles are chomping away at our forests and killing off ponderosa pines. Wildfires are rapidly growing in intensity. These problems have been linked to a drought that has stretched 19 years with no respite. Now, a team of researchers concludes that the ongoing drought across the western U.S. rivals most past “megadroughts” dating as far back as 800 A.D. — and that this region is currently in a megadrought.
For the first time in well over a year, a clear path exists for completion of Arizona’s share of a three-state drought plan for the Colorado River. The plan would step up already-approved requirements for cuts in water deliveries to Arizona, Nevada and eventually California as Lake Mead drops below certain key levels. While many hurdles and potential disputes remain, water officials said last week they’re ready to work together and hold public meetings to solicit comments on the plan from various water users and other interest groups. The first such meeting will be held July 26 in the Phoenix area.
Earlier in May, Brenda Burman, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation within the Department of the Interior, urged water managers in the Colorado River Basin to adopt Drought Contingency Plans (DCPs) in light of the very dry year we have experienced in 2018, and some new projections, which paint a discouraging future for the Colorado River Basin.
A bruising battle between the Central Arizona Project and many states and water users has revitalized the push for a stillborn plan to prepare for more drought on the Colorado River. The original dustup was over whether the CAP was seeking to “game the system” of reservoir operations at lakes Mead and Powell to benefit itself at the expense of the river’s Upper Basin states: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. That’s prompted new talks to try to also resolve longstanding differences with another of CAP’s adversaries, the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
A bruising battle between the Central Arizona Project and many states and water users has revitalized the push for a stillborn plan to prepare for more drought on the Colorado River. The original dust-up was over whether the CAP was seeking to “game the system” of reservoir operations at lakes Mead and Powell to benefit itself at the expense of the river’s Upper Basin states: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Longer-range outlooks for Lake Mead and the Central Arizona Project are increasingly grim due to this year’s bad runoff, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Wednesday. The result is that the bureau is pushing hard for states in both the Upper and Lower Basins of the Colorado River to reach agreement this year on drought planning to ease the pain of future shortages, after negotiations have so far failed.