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States Miss Deadline to Address Colorado River Water Crisis, Pressure Builds on California

The seven states that depend on the Colorado River have missed a Jan. 31 federal deadline for reaching a regionwide consensus on how to sharply reduce water use, raising the likelihood of more friction as the West grapples with how to take less supplies from the shrinking river.

In a bid to sway the process after contentious negotiations reached an impasse, six of the seven states gave the federal government a last-minute proposal outlining possible water cuts to help prevent reservoirs from falling to dangerously low levels, presenting a unified front while leaving out California, which uses the single largest share of the river.

California is Lone Holdout in Colorado River Cuts Proposal

Six Western states that rely on water from the Colorado River have agreed on a model to dramatically cut water use in the basin, months after the federal government called for action and an initial deadline passed.

California — with the largest allocation of water from the river — is the lone holdout. Officials said the state would release its own plan.

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.

How Las Vegas Declared War on Thirsty Grass and Set an Example for the Desert Southwest

Fountains still shimmer opulently at casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, but lush carpets of grass are gradually disappearing along the streets of Sin City.

Despite its reputation for excess, the Mojave Desert metropolis has been factoring climate change into its water plans for years, declaring war on thirsty lawns, patrolling the streets for water wasters and preparing for worst-case scenarios on the Colorado River, which supplies 90% of the area’s water.

Colorado River Water Managers Optimistic About Drought Plan as Deadline Looms

Western water managers are optimistic that a deal to buoy the drought-stricken Colorado River can be pieced together in the waning days before a deadline set by the federal government rolls around next week.

The Bureau of Reclamation has given the seven states in the basin until the end of January to propose their own plan for voluntary reductions needed to prevent the river’s two main reservoirs from crashing, or risk the federal government moving forward with its own measures that would most likely result in mandated cuts.

Water Authority Lays Out Colorado River Plan to Protect Lake Mead, Lake Powell

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has a plan for how the seven states that rely on the Colorado River can protect Lake Mead and Lake Powell. But whether the other six states have any interest in backing that plan remains to be seen. The water authority on Tuesday outlined how it thinks the Colorado River basin states and the federal government can drastically cut back on water use along the dwindling Colorado next year in order to keep water levels at its two major reservoirs from crashing further and threatening putting their ability to deliver water downstream and generate hydropower.

Lower Colorado River Reservoir Evaporation the Focus of New Analysis

A Nevada water agency has taken the first concrete step toward accounting for evaporation and other losses in the Colorado River’s Lower Basin. The new analysis attempts to pinpoint exactly how much water is lost, and who should cut back to bring the system closer to a balance between supply and demand. An analysis compiled by the Southern Nevada Water Authority estimates the total amount of water lost in the river’s lower reaches. If implemented in its current form, the proposal would translate to significant cutbacks for users in Nevada, Arizona and California.

California Water Crisis: In-Depth Look at Colorado River Water Use

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States and a critical source of water for Nevada, Arizona and California. But right now, it’s at only about 25 percent of total capacity.

State Puts $100M Toward Water Conservation

More money is coming down the pipeline for Nevada’s efforts to conserve water amid a historic megadrought that has put the pinch on supplies in the Southwest.

Nevada Looks to Conservation as Colorado River Dwindles

Only a few miles from the Las Vegas Strip, in the Mojave Desert, is an unlikely scene: A county park with walking trails and thick vegetation that circles a vibrant rush of flowing water.

Known as the Las Vegas Wash, the water running through this channel is a crucial part of how Nevada has managed to keep its net Colorado River use below its allocation, despite booming population growth and two decades of persistent drought, worsened by a changing climate.

 

(AP EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a collaborative series on the Colorado River as the 100th anniversary of the historic Colorado River Compact approaches. The Associated Press, The Colorado Sun, The Albuquerque Journal, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Arizona Daily Star and The Nevada Independent are working together to explore the pressures on the river in 2022.)