Western States Finally Strike Colorado River Deal. But The Hard Work Has Only Just Begun

At one of Los Angeles’s main water treatment plants a few miles north of the Port of Los Angeles, a small-scale facility is demonstrating what might be part of the solution to the region’s water woes. The Pure Water Southern California Demonstration Plant facility uses membrane bioreactors, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet radiation to process about 500,000 gallons of treated wastewater a day, further purifying it into something clean enough to use in industry, replenish the region’s groundwater, and potentially put back into the city’s drinking water system.

Thanks for Planting Me!-Landscape Transformation-water conservation-landscapes

“Thanks for Planting Me!” Spokesplants Promote Landscape Transformation

“Thanks for Planting Me!” encourages more widespread adoption of sustainable landscapes to prepare the Southern California region for a hotter and drier climate.

The “Thanks for Planting Me!” summer campaign offers gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of San Diegans who have transformed their landscapes using low-water and native plants as part of a larger effort to use water more efficiently. Thanks for Planting Me! also is intended to show resident the WaterSmart advantages of embracing regenerative low-water landscapes as climate change stresses water supplies across the Southwest.

Sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority, and supported by state grant funds to promote water-use efficiency, the “spokesplants” will appear on a variety of digital and outdoor advertising platforms starting in May, Water Awareness Month.

Thanks for Planting Me!

Promoting water conservation with landscape transformation complements similar efforts to promote on-going water-use efficiency by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the State of California’s Save Our Water program. The “Thanks for Planting Me!” campaign is driven by a collection of animated plant personalities like Succulent Sam and Rose Marie who express their appreciation for being adopted across San Diego County as the “next-generation landscape.”

The Water Authority and its retail member agencies are also planning to participate in community events over the summer – including the San Diego County Fair – to promote landscapes that provide numerous environmental benefits, including storm-water retention and healthy soils. In addition, the Water Authority has renewed a long-running partnership with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance to co-brand signage at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s conservation garden. The signs educate park visitors about water use practices on park grounds and how people can improve water use on their own landscapes.

Low-water landscapes for dry climate

“Three years of extreme drought are over, but they remind us about severe water management challenges across the Southwest,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “San Diego County has embraced water-use efficiency like few places across the nation, however, there’s always a next step.

“We should not lose the urgency created by the drought to continue adoption of low-water landscapes. This summer outreach effort is a fun way to both thank residents and remind them about resources that the Water Authority and our partners offer as we prepare for the inevitable dry years ahead.”

Rebates, plant guides

Those resources include rebates for lawn replacement, rain barrels and other water-efficient devices; on-demand videos filled with landscaping tips; plant guides to make selection easier; and digital workbooks that provide guidance for creating beautiful, low-maintenance landscapes that use far less water than turfgrass. About half of the water used at typical homes is used outside, providing ample opportunities for long-term reductions in water-use.

“There are now thousands of residential and commercial landscapes in our region that show just how attractive and functional climate-friendly landscapes are; most people don’t need or use grass – they just need a little encouragement to find an alternative,” Kerl said. “Using the summer months to plan for landscape upgrades, means you can be ready to take action in the fall and winter when it’s time to plant.”

Long-term challenges for water supply sources

Decades of investments in water supplies, water infrastructure and efficiency measures have insulated San Diego County from recent droughts. The long-term challenges across the Southwest remain given the severe depletion of the Colorado River and groundwater basins.

“Fundamentally, we are no longer talking about drought but an entirely different reality than we were in decades past – the era of climate-driven impacts to our natural resources,” Kerl said. “Every person in San Diego and the western U.S. must continue to eliminate water waste, adopt low-water landscapes, capture rainwater, and take other steps to adapt to a hotter and drier future.”

The “Thanks for Planting Me!” campaign is supported with grant funds from by the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, administered by the State of California, Department of Water Resources.

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Colorado River Water Sharing Agreement Likely Dodges Legal Fight

A messy Colorado River legal fight is much less likely in the near term now that the seven river basin states have reached consensus on how to conserve water amid a historic 23-year drought, legal observers say.

The consensus proposal respects water rights by relying mainly on voluntary conservation and “goes a very long way to avoiding what would have been costly and divisive litigation,” said Jay Weiner, of counsel at Rosette LLP, who represents the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe.

California Emerges as Big Winner in Colorado River Water Deal

Monday’s historic Colorado River agreement represents a big win for California, which only months ago was embroiled in a bitter feud with Arizona, Nevada and four other Western states over how to dramatically reduce their use of water supplies in the shrinking river. The proposition, which came after months of tense negotiations, would see the three states in the Colorado’s lower basin conserve about 3 million acre-feet of water from the river by 2026 — a 14% reduction across the Southwest that amounts to only about half of what could have been imposed by the federal government had the states not come to an accord.

IID GM Comments Lower Basin Plan for Colorado River & Lake Mead Water Conservation

Imperial Irrigation District (IID) General Manager Henry Martinez issued a statement Monday, May 22, commenting on the announcement made earlier today by the Colorado River Board of California regarding the submission of a Lower Basin Plan to Reclamation for analysis by representatives of the seven Colorado River Basin States. The Lower Basin Plan proposes to conserve 3 million acre-feet of Colorado River water through 2026, with at least 1.5 million acre-feet of that total being conserved by the end of calendar year 2024.

Snowmelt is Swelling Colorado’s Rivers, but Much More Snow is Still Waiting in the High Country

Floods, swollen rivers, road closures — Colorado’s spring runoff season is in full swing and much of the snow in the state’s mountains hasn’t melted yet. Colorado saw higher-than-average snowfall build up on the Western Slope this year, a boon for irrigators and other water users who rely on the Colorado River Basin which spans Colorado, tribal lands, six Western states and parts of Mexico. But the snowmelt, with the help of recent weather, is leading to high runoff and its adverse impacts are popping up around the state like a game of whack-a-mole.

Opinion: Colorado River Water Deal Gives California Another Reprieve. For Now

The Colorado River deal announced Monday is more of a temporary reprieve than a solution to plummeting water supplies. The deep water cuts for California, Arizona and Nevada will tide over thirsty residents and farmers only until the end of 2026. The real reckoning comes when operating agreements expire for Lake Mead, which feeds the Colorado’s water to Southern California and the two other lower-basin states, and Lake Powell, which regulates the flow into Lake Mead while serving Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

Colorado River Deal: What Does It Mean for California?

After nearly a year of intense negotiations, California, Nevada and Arizona reached a historic agreement today to use less water from the overdrafted Colorado River over the next three years. The states agreed to give up 3 million acre-feet of river water through 2026 — about 13% of the amount they receive. In exchange, farmers and other water users will receive compensation from the federal government.

Opinion: California Taxpayers on the Hook to Save Two Unhealthy Western Rivers

The Klamath River begins in Oregon, draining the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, and slices through the northwestern corner of California before flowing into the Pacific Ocean. The Colorado River begins in Colorado, draining the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, before meandering southwesterly and emptying into Mexico’s Sea of Cortez – if there’s any water left after California and other states have tapped the river for irrigation and municipal supplies.

San Diego County Water Authority And its 24 Member Agencies

Water Authority Issues Statement on Consensus-Based Plan for the Colorado River

May 22, 2023 – San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl today issued the following statement regarding a new consensus-based plan to conserve water on the Colorado River:

“Today, the Lower Colorado River Basin states, California, Arizona, and Nevada, provided the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation with a plan to conserve up to 3 million acre-feet on the river through 2026 to address long-term drought and protect elevations in Lakes Mead and Powell, the two critical reservoirs the Lower Basin depends on for its river supplies.

“This consensus-based plan was offered to replace alternatives Reclamation is considering under its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), released in April to consider changes to the river’s near-term operations. Those existing alternatives, one of which would bypass the Colorado River priority right system so important to California, would potentially mandate reductions to the Lower Basin.

“With the new proposal, Reclamation has announced it is temporarily suspending the SEIS process to allow more time to analyze the Lower Basin proposed plan. As a result, the May 30 deadline for comment letters on the draft SEIS is no longer in effect. As part of its announcement, Reclamation stated it plans to complete the SEIS process later this year.

“The Water Authority applauds the efforts of California, through the Colorado River Board of California, of which the Water Authority is a member, for working closely with the other Lower Basin states to develop a consensus proposal to submit to Reclamation. The Water Authority has been a long-time advocate of collaboration on the Colorado River, and today’s announcement appears to be a positive step in that direction.

“The Water Authority continues to review this proposal, which relies upon voluntary and federally compensated conservation as opposed to mandatory reductions, to make sure it best serves California, protects our region’s Colorado River supplies, and provides equitable, realistic solutions in the near term that will keep the river flowing for all users. If that end is achieved, we can then focus our attention on planning for the river’s long-term operations in a balanced Basin-wide approach.”

(Editor’s Note: Attached are two letters, including the Lower Basin proposal to Reclamation, and a letter from all seven Basin states calling on Reclamation to pause the SEIS process to review the Lower Basin proposed plan. To see the federal response, click the following link –