Nevada calls on Utah and Upper Colorado Basin states to slash water use by 500,000 acre-feet

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Nevada water managers have submitted a plan to reduce diversion by 500,000 acre feet in a last-ditch effort to strengthen the Colorado River’s flow before low water levels cause serious problems at Glen Canyon and the Hoover Dam. did.

But Silver State’s plans target cuts in Utah and the other Upper Basin states of the river, not Nevada, and its leaders say the water supply for 40 million people in the West is depleted. It claims that it is already doing what it can to reduce its dependence on river systems.

“Prohibiting the inefficient supply, application or use of water within any sector and by any user is now a thing of the past. , municipalities, and agricultural users must follow the highest industry standards in water handling, use, and disposal,” the Nevada Commission sent to the Department of the Interior. “It is important that recycling pursues all options that help reduce watershed consumption and provide water supply reliability.”

One option proposed by Nevada is for Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming to provide enough water in Powell to keep the Glen Canyon Dam’s hydroelectric turbines spinning and Lake Powell functioning as a reservoir. Accepting drastic reductions in water withdrawals to reach the lakes.

Years of drought have put the Colorado River in crisis. His four states in the Upper Basin have proposed certain cuts because most of the river’s water is used in the Lower Basin, which has received an average of 8.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River flow over the past decade. resisting to do

“There is no question that everyone who uses the water of the Colorado River will feel a pinch,” said Gene Shawcroft, Utah’s Colorado River Commissioner. “I like the fact that Nevada threw something on the table because it gives us a point to talk to them and explain again how the Upper Basin works.”

Over the years, the seven basin states have collected more water than their rivers can provide as climate change has reduced flows by about 20%. Water levels at Mead and Powell hit historic lows this year and are projected to continue to fall.

“These declines represent a massive loss of critical reservoirs that cannot be easily replenished,” says a Nevada plan prepared by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). “Further depletion of reservoirs directly increases risk and uncertainty regarding future supply reliability.”

The proposal comes in the form of Nevada’s official comment to a supplemental environmental impact statement being prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation, which is preparing proposed changes to the operation of drought-depleted reservoirs. Nevada, one of his three states in the Lower Basin, has a combined 500,000 acres against each state in the Upper Basin if Lake Powell water levels are projected to fall below 3,550 feet above sea level early next year. I asked for a foot reduction.

Today, the lake level is already much lower, at 3,525.7 feet, just 35 feet above the point where the turbines of the Glen Canyon Dam would be damaged if water passed through the penstock. Without drastic intervention, the dam is not expected to generate electricity for much longer, could destabilize the operation of the western power grid, and threaten to protect endangered species of native fish in the river. It can cut off important sources of income.

Environmentalists say the river crisis was created by the state itself, which has deliberately ignored the effects of climate change on the course of the Colorado River for years.

“Voices are finally coming out against Colorado and the Upper Basin’s plans to further drain the Colorado River and escalate political turmoil,” said Save, a nonprofit that opposes further diversions on the Colorado River. Gary Wokner of The Colorado said, “Let’s hope the Reclamation Service listens to SNWA and tightens its crackdown. Colorado and Upper Basin immediately stop building dams and diversions.” But we need to stop planning dams and diversions and start diversions of much less water.”

Utah and other Upper Basin states, all pursuing new diversions, claim to have historically used less than their allotted share of the river. Basins should absorb most of the logging needed to save large reservoirs, he says.

The comments filed by the Upper Colorado River Commission and the Utah Colorado River Authority do not mention cuts, instead reaffirming a “five-item plan” that emphasizes “demand management” for the Upper Basin.

“The historically low levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead are not due to water use in Upper Division states,” writes Charles Callom of the Upper Colorado River Commission. “Using existing tools, states in the higher divisions are taking steps to address local and regional drought impacts, routinely reducing diversion and use during shortages. New conservation activities are taking place at each upper. [Basin] The state will help mitigate the effects of unprecedented drought, protect the critical elevations of Lake Powell, and continue to abide by the law of the river.”

Under a 100-year-old agreement that divided the river’s waters among seven states, Utah historically uses nearly one million acre-feet annually, some of which is diverted to cities on the Wasatch front . This interstate agreement mandates that the Upper Basin, which accounts for the bulk of the river’s flow, deliver 7.5 million acre-feet to the Lower Basin. Utah will be allocated the remaining 23%.

“The reason we don’t have specific numbers on our 5-point plan is because we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know if the runoff will be 7 million acre-feet or 20 million acre-feet,” he said. Shawcroft said. “The real challenge is hydrology. Is it meant to be used in upstream states? [Basin] Is the state off the hook? I think they are not. ”

This year, as the river crisis worsened, the Secretariat asked seven basin states to submit plans to reduce use of two to four million acre-feet. At the Colorado River Water Users Association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas last week, the state pledged to develop a consensus plan by a deadline set at the end of January. If that doesn’t happen, the bureau may impose cuts unilaterally.

The agency has already ordered discharges from upstream reservoirs to raise water levels in Lake Powell, but that hasn’t been enough. announced that it would delay That held back water, which roughly matches the amount Nevada wants the Upper Basin states to withhold, will be added to the Lower Basin releases between June and September.

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