These five people could make or break the #ColoradoRiver — The Los Angeles Times #COriver #aridification

The All American Canal carries water from the Colorado River to farms in California’s Imperial Valley. Photo credit: Adam Dubrowa, FEMA/Wikipedia.

Click the link to read the article on the Los Angeles Times website (Sammy Roth). Here’s an excerpt:

Alex Cardenas. J.B. Hamby. Jim Hanks. Javier Gonzalez. Norma Sierra Galindo. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of them. But with the Colorado River in crisis, they’re arguably five of the most powerful people in the American West. They’re the elected directors of the Imperial Irrigation District, or IID, which provides water to the desert farm fields of California’s Imperial Valley, in the state’s southeastern corner. They control 3.1 million acre-feet of Colorado River water — roughly one-fifth of all the Colorado River water rights in the United States.

And if you live in Southern California — or in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver or Salt Lake City — the future reliability of your water supply will depend at least in part on what IID does next…

That’s because the Colorado River has been over-tapped for a century — and now climate change is making things worse, sharply reducing the river’s flow. Lake Mead is just 28% full, its lowest level ever. Lake Powell is at 27%. A federal official said this week that the seven states dependent on the river — including California — will need to cut their water use between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet next year to avoid outright catastrophe at the two major reservoirs…

Those kinds of cutbacks almost certainly won’t be possible without IID’s help. And that help is not guaranteed.

The Imperial Valley’s landowning farmers have fought bitterly to protect their senior water rights — hence the importance of the five individuals whose campaigns they fund, and whose actions they closely scrutinize. In 2002, for instance, the IID board voted down a proposal to sell lots of Colorado River water to San Diego County. Under pressure from the George. W Bush administration, they eventually reversed themselves — a move that invited the wrath of farmers, with long-lasting political consequences. As recently as last year, IID didn’t participate in a deal between California, Arizona and Nevada agencies to leave more water in Lake Mead. Two years earlier, the district sued to block a similar agreement known as the Drought Contingency Plan.

Colorado River drought contingency plans signing ceremony in May 2019. Photo: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

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