From WyoFile (Angus M. Thuermer Jr.):
Worried by growing demands and shrinking water supplies in the Colorado River Basin, Wyoming lawmakers are seeking legislation to authorize water banking in Wyoming and declare it a “beneficial use.”
The proposed changes to water law could allow Wyoming to “bank” Green River water for the purpose of meeting obligations to downstream states, and in doing so keep the state’s water users from running dry in the event of a shortage…
[The] message Wyoming State Engineer Pat Tyrrell gave the committees June 18 in Pinedale. “If critical elevations are breached, the system faces threats to [its] ability to control [its] own destiny – Compact compliance, irrigation, drinking water supply, power production, environmental resource preservation and overall sustainability,” his presentation said.
“Five years away or less we could have considerable problems at Lake Powell,” Tyrrell told committee members and the Wyoming Water Development Commission. Wyoming could see water diversions from the Green River curtailed as a result.
Lawmakers voted, without dissent, to draft a bill that would make water banking in Wyoming a beneficial use for contract obligations and drought contingency. The Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee wants to consider a draft at its next meeting in September…
But Compact signers “were under the impression there was a lot more water in the system,” said Eric Kuhn, former general manager of the west-slope Colorado River Water Conservation District. Now, “the system is really fully used, and we have this almost 20-year drought,” he said.
The upper basin share, for example, was initially expected to be 7.5 million acre feet annually — or a little more than a million acre feet for Wyoming. But under today’s hydrology, upper-basin states get about 6 million acre feet annually, state engineer Tyrrell said. That brings Wyoming’s share to some 834,400 acre feet. It is currently using some 598,000 acre feet annually.
Just as Wyoming has yet to use it’s full entitlement, so too has the lower-basin never demanded the upper basin curtail use to meet the obligation at Lees Ferry. But the calculus is changing and the slack is being steadily drawn from the system.