From The Las Vegas Sun (John Sadler):
What does the new agreement mean?
Probably not much for Nevada. The state has near-perfected a range of water conservation and recycling measures that will likely cover any reductions in its allocations from the Colorado.
Nevada, like the other lower basin states, has signed on to further “contributions”—essentially further water allocation cuts—to Lake Mead in the event of a low water level. The Silver State has agreed to an additional 8,000-acre-foot contribution if the water level at Lake Mead falls below 1,090 feet, and a 10,000-acre-foot contribution if Lake Mead recedes below 1,045 feet.
These contributions come on top of the previously promised allocations agreed to in 2007.
Nevada is one of the smallest contributors under the plan when measured by a straight amount of acre-feet.
For example, Arizona would contribute 192,000-240,000 under the same river levels, and California would contribute 200,000-350,000, on a sliding scale determined by the river’s water levels between 1,030-1,045 feet.
As of June 1, the Lake Mead water level was just above 1,086 feet. Nevada should be fine because it gets credit for recycled water returned to the river.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” said Eric Witkoski, executive director of the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.
The state, which gets 300,000 acre-feet a year from the Colorado, has attacked water waste vigorously. Witkoski said the Southern Nevada Water Authority targeted activities such as lawn watering and car washing to discourage any use that left water in the ground, where it cannot be recycled.
The agreement will expire in 2026, so the states will continue to hash out a more long-term solution—though Schmidt doesn’t like the word “permanent.”
“The reality is we see into the future poorly,” he said, stressing that continued changes in the climate would require continued action to protect the Colorado.
How did we get here?
The world is getting hotter.
Warming temperatures mean less snowfall on average. Less snowfall means less snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, which means that each spring there’s not enough water flowing down the mountains to feed the Colorado and the streams that empty into it.
[Jack] Schmidt said the drought’s connection to climate change is “unambiguous.”
“There isn’t one serious water manager in the Colorado River basin who doesn’t take climate change seriously,” he said.
Hotter temperatures can cause more rain and less snow, higher evaporation rates and staggered snowmelt. Under the Trump administration, the United States has retreated from serious action on climate change, stepping back from the Paris Climate Agreement almost immediately after President Donald Trump was sworn into office.
Schmidt has little patience for partisan bickering around climate change. The issue, he said, [is] settled.
“There’s no time for silly political rhetoric,” Schmidt said. “We’ve got big decisions to make.”