Responding to federal pressure, Upper #ColoradoRiver states seek to revive conservation program — KUNC #COriver #aridification

Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Ariz., forms Lake Powell. It’s still unclear how Colorado would participate in a federally mandated plan to conserve 2 to 4 million acre-feet water to protect the Colorado River system.
CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Luke Runyon). Here’s an excerpt:

In a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation, officials from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico say they are already dealing with water shortages due to ongoing dry conditions along the Colorado River, which serves as a drinking water source for 40 million people in the southwest. A reauthorization of the 2014 System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP) is one prong of the states’ newly rolled out Five-Point Plan. Senators John Hickenlooper, of Colorado, and John Barrasso, of Wyoming, are expected to introduce the bill to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at a meeting Thursday…

The Upper Basin letter argues Congress should reauthorize the SCPP. For four years the program paid farmers in Upper Basin states to restrict their use in order to create “system water,” or simply conserved water that would flow to Lake Powell. The program demonstrated that farmers would participate in programs where they’re paid to fallow their fields. But the program left some thorny questions unanswered, about how to fund such a program on a broad scale, how to ensure the conserved water flowed to the struggling reservoir it was meant to boost, and how to avoid rural communities from being hurt economically when farmers were paid not to grow crops.

Map credit: AGU

At a Wednesday board meeting, Colorado Water Conservation Board director Becky Mitchell said the Upper Basin’s planning efforts hinge on how Arizona, California and Nevada respond to the federal government’s recent charge of needing two to four million acre-feet of conservation in 2023 to keep Lakes Powell and Mead from declining to critically low levels.

Upper Basin leaders have chafed at the idea of committing to specific volumes of water to be conserved within their boundaries.

“There is recognition that while we must find basin-wide solutions, the options in the Upper Basin are limited,” Mitchell said at the meeting, noting that the Upper Basin states do not benefit from having a large reservoir like Lake Mead from which to draw on in dry times.

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