Will the #ColoradoRiver 2007 Shortage Sharing Agreement come into play this season?


From jfleck at inkstain:

The latest monthly Colorado River water management report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (pdf) takes a major step toward the river’s first ever shortage declaration. We’ll know more in a month, but the preliminary estimates now show drops in the level of Lake Powell by the end of this year could trigger provisions of a six year old shortage sharing agreement among the seven Colorado River Basin states that allow a reduction in releases in the 2013-14 water year from Powell, the reservoir spanning the Arizona-Utah border. That, in turn, would mean less water downstream for Lake Mead, which significantly increases the odds of reduced water availability for Arizona and Nevada in the 2015-16 time frame…

The key piece of institutional plumbing in the coming shortage discussions is the Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, often called the “2007 shortage sharing agreement”. It’s Byzantine, with complex tables of “if Lake Powell’s got x water in it and Lake Mead’s got y water in it, do z” kinds of directives for managing the system. I can’t begin to give a full explanation of the details here, but it’s important to highlight a central feature: Everyone agreed to this. This is not a case of the federal government imposing a water management scheme on the states, or someone suing and persuading a judge to impose the rules. It was the product of negotiation, a collective recognition on the part of each state (and the federal government) that a deal that provided some certainty, even unpleasant certainty, was better than the previous uncertainty over what would happen in a shortage, and the downside risk of losing a legal fight at that point. This is the users of a common pool resource developing the institutional arrangements to collectively manage that resource.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

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