Opinion: An Unfair Plan to Cut California’s Use of Colorado River Water

The immediate question before the seven states that use rapidly vanishing Colorado River water is not how to renegotiate the century-old agreement and accompanying laws that divvy up the supply.

California and other states will have to grapple with that problem soon enough, and it won’t be easy.

Colorado River Drainage Basin Explained

Life in the southwestern U.S. as we know it exists thanks to the water of the Colorado River, which flows for approximately 1,450 miles from the Rockies to the Gulf of California.

The river gets its water from the Colorado River drainage basin, which spreads some 246,000 square miles.

In the West, Pressure to Count Water Lost to Evaporation

Exposed to the beating sun and hot dry air, more than 10% of the water carried by the Colorado River evaporates, leaks or spills as the 1,450-mile (2,334-kilometer) powerhouse of the West flows through the region’s dams, reservoirs and open-air canals.

For decades, key stewards of the river have ignored the massive water loss, instead allocating Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico their share of the river without subtracting what’s evaporated.

On the Colorado River the Feds Carry a Big Stick. Will the States Get Hit?

The seven Colorado River basin states have until mid-August to come up with a plan to drastically cut their water use. Federal officials say the cuts are necessary to keep the river’s giant reservoirs from declining to levels where water cannot be released through their dams and hydropower production ceases. If state leaders fail to devise a plan, they could face a federal crackdown.

But while federal intervention is a key feature of Colorado River governance and management, to cajole stubborn water users into negotiating — it’s rarely tested.

Supervisor Plancarte Calls for Water Shortage Summit

 Imperial County District 2 Supervisor Luis Plancarte called for a water shortage summit for all of the water providers in Imperial County to see where they stand with plans to reduce water consumption in light of extreme drought conditions in the state.

An emergency regulation was passed on May 24 by the state Water Resources Control Board, which required urban and commercial water suppliers to implement the second stage of their respective water shortage plans.