A Proposal For The Colorado River States

The Lake Mead reservoir in Nevada is showing a “bathtub ring” because of drought. Erin Schaff/The New York Times

We have featured the river plenty in recent years. No easy solutions. Bruce Babbitt, who was secretary of the Interior Department in the Clinton administration, and before that a governor of Arizona, has this to say:

Before Western States Suck the Colorado River Dry, We Have One Last Chance to Act

The Interior Department last summer dropped a bomb on the seven states that depend upon the Colorado River for water. It declared an emergency over the two-decade drought that was parching the West and instructed these states, already scrambling to conserve water, to come up with a plan to cut consumption of as much as four million acre-feet, an amount equal to about one-third of the Colorado’s annual flow.

Then, after delivering this blow, the agency retreated to the sidelines. Instead of taking the lead, it urged the seven states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — to figure out how to make the cuts themselves.

Since then the states have engaged in futile discussions about how much water each must forgo. Tensions have been most acute among Arizona, California and Nevada, the three states that get their water primarily from large reservoirs instead of stream flow and therefore are the only ones who can be ordered to make reductions. Arizona and California, whose allotments are much larger than Nevada’s, should make the biggest cuts, but they have been sharply divided over how to carry them out.

This week, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland at last entered the negotiations over how the cuts — revised down to two million acre-feet — should be allocated. Her agency released a draft with three options, but it clearly favors one in which the water delivered to Arizona, California and Nevada is reduced by the same percentage for each state…

Read the whole op-ed here.

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