Statement by @USBR Commissioner Brenda Burman on the @POTUS signing law authorizing #ColoradoRiver Basin #Drought Contingency Plans #COriver #aridification

Changes in the northeastern reaches of Lake Powell are documented in this series of natural-color images taken by the Landsat series of satellites between 1999 and 2017. The Colorado River flows in from the east around Mile Crag Bend and is swallowed by the lake. At the west end of Narrow Canyon, the Dirty Devil River joins the lake from the north. (At normal water levels, both rivers are essentially part of the reservoir.) At the beginning of the series in 1999, water levels in Lake Powell were relatively high, and the water was a clear, dark blue. The sediment-filled Colorado River appeared green-brown. To see the complete series go to: earthobservatory.nasa.gov/WorldOfChange/LakePowell. Photos via NASA

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Michael England):

Today, [the President] took a historic step to reduce risk on the Colorado River by signing bipartisan legislation authorizing the Department of the Interior to implement Drought Contingency Plans in the Upper and Lower Basins of the Colorado River. This action supports agriculture and protects the water supplies for 40 million people.

The Colorado River is the single most important water resource in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. All levels of government stepped up to address the Basin’s worst drought in recorded history. We’ve seen collaborative efforts among the seven Basin states, local water agencies, Tribes, Mexico and the Department of the Interior. Congress took prompt action on implementing legislation for the Drought Contingency Plans, and the President acted swiftly to sign that legislation into law. Adopting consensus-based DCPs is the best path toward safeguarding this critical water supply.

From The Arizona Republic (Andrew Nicla):

The president’s signing capped a years-long process of sometimes difficult negotiations among the seven states that rely on the river. Trump announced his approval of the bill in a tweet, calling it a “big deal” for Arizona…

…[the] signing comes just over a week after Congress fast-tracked bills through the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., led those efforts and introduced identical bills endorsing the plan.

While Trump congratulated McSally, it was Grijalva’s version the president signed. That wasn’t a problem for McSally, who had said previously she supported the fastest path to approve the bill…

The one-page measure [the President] signed was not the drought plan itself, but legislation that allows the Bureau of Reclamation to carry out the plan. Next, representatives from Arizona and the other Colorado River basin states who had a hand in crafting the deal are expected to meet for a formal signing ceremony. The details haven’t been announced yet.

The plan they will sign aims to spread the effects of expected cutbacks to the river and protect the levels of the Colorado’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell…

Brenda Burman, the reclamation commissioner, kept state water leaders and lawmakers in check with several strict deadlines, some of which were not met. Despite the pace, Burman said Tuesday in a statement that Trump’s action and the signing of such a landmark water deal was a historic step for the Southwest’s water future…

This aims to protect water users from losses and prevent Lake Mead and Lake Powell from falling to critical lows. Lake Powell is 37 percent full, while Lake Mead is 41 percent full, just above a threshold that would trigger a first-ever declaration of a shortage by the federal government.

The three-state lower basin agreement, negotiated among California, Arizona and Nevada, lays out a framework for taking less water from Lake Mead and sharing in cutbacks between 2020 and 2026.

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