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5 Southern Nevada Water Issues To Watch In 2024

It was just 18 months ago when the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation warned that the Colorado Water River system was in danger of collapse unless wholesale water use reductions were enacted — cutbacks much bigger than the system has ever seen.

Climate Change Is Shrinking Snowpack In Many Places, Study Shows. And It Will Get Worse

River basins around the world that were once regularly snowbound are increasingly seeing their snowpack shrink and climate change is to blame, a new study found. “Many of the world’s most populous basins are hovering on the precipice of rapid snow declines,” concluded the study of snow amounts since 1981 in Wednesday’s journal Nature.

The Man Caught at the Center of California’s Water Wars

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the water systems that Californians rely on, from the Sierra Nevada to the Colorado River basin.

No one knows that better than Adel Hagekhalil, who as general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is at the epicenter of the state’s most intractable water woes.

Who Must Give Up Colorado River Water? As Conservation Talks Start, Tensions Rise

The seven states that share the Colorado River’s water celebrated some conservation wins at their annual meeting here this week but quickly began sparring over who will bear the brunt of future pain that they agree a drying climate will dole out.

Top (L to R): Mel Katz, chair SDCWA Board; Jim Madaffer, Vice Chair Colorado River Board of CA and SDCWA Board member; Gloria Cordero, MWD’s representative to the Colorado River Board; Adan Ortega, chair MWD Board; J.B. Hamby, Chair Colorado River Board of CA. Bottom (L To R): Dan Denham, SDCWA General Manager; Camille Touton, Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Adel Hagekhalil, MWD General Manager; Jamie Asbury, Imperial Irrigation District General Manager. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Historic Agreement Signed To Protect The Colorado River  

The San Diego County Water Authority today joined the Imperial Irrigation District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe, Palo Verde Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District, and the United States Bureau of Reclamation in signing a historic agreement to protect the Colorado River Basin. It is the first in a series of agreements to conserve 1.6 million acre-feet of water to remain in Lake Mead.

The landmark water agreements are a vital part of the Lower Basin Plan by Arizona, California, and Nevada to protect the Colorado River from extended drought — a plan identified this fall as Reclamation’s proposed action for near-term Colorado River operations. Funds to facilitate the deal are from the federal 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

Water Authority Board Chair Mel Katz, General Manager Dan Denham, and Board member and vice chair of the Colorado River Board of California Jim Madaffer, were part of today’s signing ceremony in Las Vegas in conjunction with the Colorado River Water Users Association annual conference. The Water Authority’s piece of the multi-party pacts is expected to save the San Diego region $15 million to $20 million (depending on hydrological variables), which will help offset the impact of inflation and other factors pushing up water rates.

Water Authority General Manager Dan Denham speaks at the Dec. 13 signing ceremony in Las Vegas, supporting a set of agreements to sustain the Colorado River and save money for San Diego County water ratepayers. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority historic agreement

Water Authority General Manager Dan Denham speaks at the December 13 signing ceremony in Las Vegas, supporting a set of agreements to sustain the Colorado River and save money for San Diego County water ratepayers. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

“This is a significant moment not just for today but for the long-term survival of the Colorado River,” said Denham. “All the critical pieces are here: willing partners, meaningful levels of conservation, federal funding, environmental benefits for the Salton Sea, and respect for the Law of the River.”

Today’s signed agreement ensures Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, can continue delivering water to millions of people and millions of acres of farmland, including in San Diego County, over the next three years. Additional agreements are anticipated to be signed in 2024 with the Bard Water District, the Coachella Valley Water District, and the Imperial Irrigation District.

“Less than a year ago, we faced the worst possible consequences of drought and interstate conflict. Today, California’s agricultural, urban, and tribal users are banding together through these agreements to protect the Colorado River as part of the Lower Basin Plan with the instrumental support of the Bureau of Reclamation. It’s an incredible turnaround,” said JB Hamby, chairman of the Colorado River Board of California and Colorado River Commissioner for California.

Earlier Partnership Creates Foundation for Cooperation 

Supporters await the Dec. 13 signing ceremony in Las Vegas, supporting a set of agreements to sustain the Colorado River and save money for San Diego County water ratepayers. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority  historic agreement

Witnesses to history await the Dec. 13 signing ceremony in Las Vegas, supporting a set of agreements to sustain the Colorado River and save money for San Diego County water ratepayers. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Today’s agreements build on the groundbreaking 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement. The QSA achieves several goals by helping California meet conservation obligations under Reclamation’s Lower Colorado River Basin conservation program, supporting financial viability for participating agencies, and reducing the chances for more shortages. The river system has suffered drought-induced decline for more than 20 years.

“IID remains fully committed to working proactively with its partners for the long-term sustainability of the Colorado River and Lake Mead, the source of IID’s only water supply,” said Imperial Irrigation District General Manager Jamie Asbury. “We are equally committed to ensuring any impacts to the Salton Sea resulting from regional solutions with broader beneficiaries are appropriately addressed to protect our community.

“IID’s involvement, and particularly that of Imperial Valley growers who will be generating much of this water through voluntary on-farm conservation measures, exemplifies our collective commitment and support that will be paramount in the long-term success of the River.”

Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said: “Each one of these agreements is evidence of what we can achieve when we work together. This collaborative effort, including federal financial support and Metropolitan’s commitment to leave more than 400,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead this year, will help stabilize the reservoir while we negotiate longer-term solutions.

“There is much work ahead. Building lasting solutions will take even greater partnership and investment from us all.”

The Water Authority, MWD, and IID have been working together for several months on ways to capitalize on current water supplies. Due to a historically wet year, the State Water Project is delivering complete supplies to MWD, refilling reservoirs, and reducing demand for imported Colorado River water. The MWD Board of Directors approved the agreement in November, and the IID Board followed with its approval on December 1.

How the Water Authority’s Piece Works

The Water Authority will leave 50,000 acre-feet of conserved QSA water in the Colorado River. This helps raise the level of Lake Mead, which has dropped in recent years. The volume is equivalent to the amount of water used in a year by approximately 150,000 single-family homes.

The Water Authority agreed to buy 50,000 acre-feet from MWD to meet current and future demands. The Water Authority’s cost savings result from the difference between the MWD rate and the rate for IID’s conserved water through the QSA. The Bureau of Reclamation will cover the cost of the Water Authority’s QSA supplies left in the river.

 

 

The Colorado River’s Biggest User Will Conserve Some Water in Exchange for Federal Dollars

The Imperial Irrigation District in California, which uses more Colorado River water than any other farm district or city in the West, has agreed to conserve 100,000 acre-feet in 2023 in exchange for payments from the federal government. It’s less than half the amount of water the district originally proposed saving last spring.

Feds Bet on Paying for Water Conservation to Protect the Colorado River

Arizona’s future was at a critical juncture at the beginning of 2023.

Massive cuts to the state’s Colorado River water supply were being imposed. Deadlines loomed from the federal government for the seven states that rely on Colorado River water to come up with a solution for how to cut use even further as the nation’s two largest reservoirs recorded among their lowest levels ever after decades of drought caused by overconsumption and climate change.

Winter Snow Could Help Recharge the Colorado River. But What if It Doesn’t?

High in the mountains of Colorado, it’s a time of quiet.

The summer leaves have given way to bare branches, but the ski slopes haven’t yet filled with tourists—or snow. Soon, the flakes will begin to pile up, burying alpine valleys and recharging the Colorado River.

Federal Government’s Short-term Colorado River Stabilization Plan Paints a “Rosy” Picture

Colorado scientist Brad Udall spent hours digging — with frustration — through the federal government’s 700-page proposal for managing key dams and reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin over the next three years.

“I just wish they would really simply say, ‘And here’s how the system would perform under these really bad years we’ve seen over the last 23 (years),’” said Udall, senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University. “If they would do that, you would see that this system crashes.”

House Passes Legislation to Improve Water Shortages in Colorado, Southwest Region

The United States House of Representatives passed two amendments this past Thursday that would provide $5 million in funding to water projects in Colorado and the Southwest.

The amendments, introduced by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, added to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act redirect funding from the Department of Energy’s Departmental Administration Account to the Colorado River Storage Project and Colorado River Dam Fund.