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Farmers Concerned Over How Mandatory Water Cuts From Colorado River Will impact Agriculture

Two western states are imposing mandatory water cuts because the Colorado River, which supplies water to 40 million people and about 5 million acres of land across seven states, has dropped to alarmingly low levels.

Nevada and Arizona, concerned that a 20-year drought has dried up much of the river, are trying to rein in water use in an effort to save the disappearing river.

How To Save The Colorado River From Climate Change And Chronic Overuse

Paul Kehmeier is a fourth-generation farmer from western Colorado. One hundred and twenty years ago, his great grandfather Wilhelm Kehmeier bought land in Delta County, dug an irrigation ditch to bring water from a nearby stream, and got to work planting. The Kehmeier family has been farming on the same land ever since, growing alfalfa, hay and oats. But a few years ago, Paul Kehmeier did something unusual: he decided not to water about 60% of his fields.

OPINION: Valley Voice: The Legislature Must Rethink SB 1. It Will Hurt Water Management Efforts

If not amended, Senate Bill 1 will perpetuate California’s water and environmental troubles, not help to resolve them, as its proponents claim.

How? As written, SB 1 limits the use of research conducted over the last decade meant to better understand Delta water management and its relationship to fish and wildlife. The State Water Project — funded by ratepayers throughout California, including the Coachella Valley — has spent tens of millions of dollars to improve this understanding.

West Wrestles With Colorado River “Grand Bargain” As Changing Climate Depletes Water Governed By 1922 Compact

Rocky Mountain water managers worried about climate-driven depletion across the Colorado River Basin are mulling a “grand bargain” that would overhaul obligations among seven southwestern states for sharing the river’s water. This reflects rising concerns that dry times could turn disastrous. An enshrined legal right of California and lower-basin states to demand more Colorado River water could imperil half of Denver’s water supply. The grand bargain concept arose from increasing anxiety in booming Colorado and the other upper-basin states — New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — about their plight of being legally roped into sending more water downriver, even if dry winters, new population growth and development made that impossible without shutting faucets.

OPINION: Eagle River Watershed Council: The Mighty Colorado Faces Challenges

The mighty Colorado. Its very name makes some nostalgic, others wishful of adventure and, still others, fearful. Whatever your feelings, we are lucky to have about 55 miles of the Colorado River flowing through our county. Not to mention the Eagle River is a significant headwaters tributary to the Colorado River, and many of us recreate on and/or near the Colorado River. However, it is not a river without challenges, as drought, aridification, climate change, and human activities reduce flows and change the timing of hydrologic events. There are images everywhere of the “bathtub rings” in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, showing how low both of these water storage areas are, despite this big water year.

Arizona, Nevada Cuts To Colorado River Water Negligible

Arizona and Nevada will face their first-ever cuts in Colorado River water next year, but the changes aren’t expected to be overly burdensome for either state. The water is delivered through Lake Mead, one of the largest manmade reservoirs in the country that straddles the Arizona-Nevada border. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Thursday that Lake Mead barely will fall below 1,090 feet (332 meters) on Jan. 1, triggering cuts for the junior users in the river’s lower basin, at 1,089.4 (332 meters) above sea level. For Arizona, that means less water for underground storage, recharging aquifers and for agricultural use. About 7% of its 2.8 million acre-feet, or 192,000 acre-feet, will be left behind Lake Mead.

Wet Winter Doesn’t End Climate Change Risk To Colorado River

Snow swamped mountains across the U.S. West last winter, leaving enough to thrill skiers into the summer, swelling rivers and streams when it melted, and largely making wildfire restrictions unnecessary. But the wet weather can be misleading.

Climate change means the region is still getting drier and hotter.

“It only demonstrates the wide swings we have to manage going forward,” James Eklund, former director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, an interstate agency that ensures river water is doled out properly, said earlier this year. “You can put an ice cube — even an excellent ice cube — in a cup of hot coffee, but eventually it’s going to disappear.”

All-American Canal

Study to Explore New Regional Water Conveyance System

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors last week approved a contract to study the viability of a new regional water conveyance system that would deliver water from the Colorado River to San Diego County and provide multiple benefits across the Southwest.

The $1.9 million contract was awarded to Black & Veatch Corporation for a two-phase study. The engineering firm conducted similar studies for the Water Authority dating back to 1996 but looked at “single use” in those studies.

“A regional system to move our independent Colorado River supplies from the Imperial Valley directly to San Diego County could be more cost-effective, while also providing multiple benefits for California and the Southwest,” said Kelly Rodgers, director of the Water Authority’s Colorado River Program. “The study will assess the potential for new regional and public-private partnerships and funding opportunities.”

Three potential pipeline routes studied

The Water Authority currently pays the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to transport Quantification Settlement Agreement water through the Colorado River Aqueduct to San Diego.

The pipeline under study would be designed at a capacity to convey the QSA water, which in 2021 will reach its full amount of 280,000 acre-feet of water annually. The current Water Transfer Agreement between the Imperial Irrigation District and the Water Authority continues to 2047. But both agencies can agree to extend the transfer another 30 years to 2077.

Three potential routes for the pipeline will be considered as part of an initial screening of the alternatives during the first phase of the study. The study will also consider elements such as permit and environmental regulations, and risk, cost and economic analysis.

Phase 1 of regional water system study will take one year

The first phase of the study, projected to cost $1.3 million, is expected to be completed in summer 2020. The Board will then determine whether to go forward with phase 2 of the study.

Pending Board approval, the second phase will include the final screening of alternatives based on refinement of site layouts, pipeline alignment and tunneling requirements, and risk, cost and economic analysis. The second phase will cost $590,00 and is expected to take one year to complete.

The Board previously approved funds for this study at its June 27 meeting.

Map indicates three potential routes for a proposed regional pipeline system that would move Quantification Settlement Agreement water directly from the Imperial Valley to San Diego. Two of the routes (the light blue and purple lines) follow a southern route. The third proposed route (shown in both a yellow and darker blue line) follows a northern path. Graphic: Water Authority

Conveyance routes would connect to All-American Canal

As the study gets underway, there are three routes under consideration. Each of those routes would connect to the tail end of the All-American Canal where it meets the Westside Main Canal in the southwest corner of the Imperial Valley.

Two of the routes would follow a southern corridor between the Imperial Valley and San Diego, with one route over the mountains paralleling the U.S./Mexico border and the other tunneling through the mountains. Both routes would end at the San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside.

The third and northernmost route would follow the Westside Main Canal toward the Salton Sea, then flow past Borrego Springs, and through the mountains. It would eventually connect to the Water Authority’s Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant in San Marcos.

The pipeline system is one of a handful of visionary ideas being discussed by San Diego County water leaders to enhance partnerships and solutions that make sense locally and more broadly as part of Governor Newsom’s Water Portfolio Program to develop resiliency statewide.

As Southwest Water Managers Grapple With Climate Change, Can A ‘Grand Bargain’ Work?

Water managers on the Colorado River are facing a unique moment. With a temporary fix to the river’s scarcity problem recently completed, talk has begun to turn toward future agreements to manage the water source for 40 million people in the southwestern U.S.

Climate change, growing urban populations and fragile rural economies are top of mind. Some within the basin see a window of opportunity to argue for big, bold actions to find balance in the watershed. Others say the best path forward is to take small, incremental steps toward lofty goals, a method Colorado River managers say has worked well for them for decades.

As Southwest Water Managers Grapple With Climate Change, Can A ‘Grand Bargain’ Work?

Climate change, growing urban populations and fragile rural economies are top of mind. Some within the basin see a window of opportunity to argue for big, bold actions to find balance in the watershed. Others say the best path forward is to take small, incremental steps toward lofty goals, a method Colorado River managers say has worked well for them for decades.