Colorado River Basin: Annual consumptive use now outstrips flow

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“We’re no longer in a surplus situation,” said Bill McDonald, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s deputy commissioner for policy and budget. “The teeter-totter has tipped.” Federal data show that the average annual use of Colorado River water (15.4 million acre-feet) has surpassed the average annual supply (14.5 million acre-feet) in the river…

“We actually have run up against what the river provides,” said Bart Miller, water program director for Western Resource Advocates, a law and policy firm. “Our choices moving forward have to be very careful ones. Brand new uses are going to have to be displacing other uses.”

Colorado still doesn’t use all of its 3.88 million acre-feet allotment under the interstate compact that governs use of the river. An acre-foot contains 325,851 gallons, enough to sustain two families of four for a year. State officials are trying to calculate the unused share. Estimates range up to 300,000 acre-feet. “Just because the Colorado River as a whole is overused” doesn’t necessarily prevent development in Colorado, said Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “The lower states (California, Nevada, Arizona) are using far more than the upper states.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

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