New Leader Takes Over as the Upper #ColoradoRiver Commission Grapples With Less Water and a Drier #Climate #COriver #aridification

Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission (Source: Bureau of Reclamation via the Water Education Foundation)

From the Water Education Foundation (Gary Pitzer). Click through to read the whole interview, here’s an excerpt from the article:

Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.

As executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, Haas is likely to play a major role in helping to address changing hydrologic conditions along the Colorado, drought planning and ongoing water conservation efforts, as well as tribal water rights among Native Americans and their impact in the Colorado River Basin.

The commission, created by the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact of 1948, is comprised of representatives from Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, all of whom rely extensively on the Colorado River and its tributaries to support important agricultural economies and the demands of a growing urban sector. Among the commission’s duties is a key one: Ensuring the flow of the Colorado River at Lee Ferry, the dividing point between Upper and Lower Basins, does not drop below 75 million acre-feet for any 10 consecutive years as required by the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

That task is challenging because the two basins have many differences, not the least of which is geography. In the Lower Basin, Lake Mead sits above the big cities and farms and is the bank where conserved water is stored. Not so in the Upper Basin where Lake Powell sits below the majority of water users. Conserved water stored in Powell cannot be returned to users in the Upper Basin.

Haas talked with Western Water in July, shortly after she was named to her new position, about the Upper Basin’s challenges, including drought planning, climate change and tribal water rights. The transcript has been edited for space and clarity.

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