From The Desert Sun (Ian James):
Two days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell laid out a game plan for averting serious water shortages along the Colorado River.
Jewell’s 10-page directive underscored the importance of concluding deals this year between California, Arizona and Nevada, as well as between the U.S. and Mexican governments, to share in reduced water deliveries to prevent reservoirs from falling to critical lows.
Her announcement accompanied a separate accord in which the Interior Department pledged to coordinate with California officials to manage the shrinking Salton Sea – where one agency’s demands for a detailed plan to keep the lake from turning into a dust bowl have become a sticking point in the talks toward a three-state Colorado River deal.
The new administration isn’t bound by Jewell’s order. Interior secretary nominee Ryan Zinke hasn’t yet made clear how he intends to deal with the complicated and interconnected issues of the Colorado River, which is severely overallocated, ravaged by a 17-year drought and threatened by global warming. But there has been widespread agreement during the past year among the states, water suppliers, scientists and environmental advocates that the status quo isn’t working in dry times, and everyone would benefit from preventing a crash in water supplies.
Jewell said before leaving office that all the parties, from states and tribes to her agency’s Mexican counterparts, have made tremendous progress in working toward agreements…
Jewell’s directive appears to stress the nonpolitical nature of a water-supply imbalance that must be addressed, said Jennifer Pitt, who leads the National Audubon Society’s Colorado River Project.
From the Associated Press (Ken Ritter) via Tucson.com:
The report release came the same week that outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell warned that key drought contingency plans aimed at reducing the risk of water shortages in seven Western states remain unfinished as a new U.S. president takes office.
One issue involves a binational share-the-pain pact reached in November 2012 with Mexico that is set to expire. It lets Mexico store water in Lake Mead, which helps keep the lake above a trigger point where the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation would cut water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada.
The lake level on Friday was 8 feet above the line — down about 130 feet since 2000. The lake was last at full capacity in 1983…
In 2011, the river flow into the Lake Powell reservoir east of the Grand Canyon was 47 percent above normal, Davis said. Projections this year, so far, are for a 12 percent bump.
The bureau says there’s still about a 50-50 chance that a water shortage declaration will be made in August to trigger cuts in supplies to Arizona and Nevada in January 2018.
Arizona could lose 11 percent of its annual allotment, and Nevada could lose about 4 percent. The amount of water at stake could, combined, serve more than 625,000 homes. But deliveries to farms in Arizona would be affected first.
Nevada water managers say the effect would be felt less in and around Las Vegas, which draws 90 percent of its water from Lake Mead, because conservation and reuse programs have in recent years cut the amount of water the area uses.