Click the link to read the article on the Gunnison Country Times website (Alan Wartes). Here’s an excerpt:
On Aug. 16, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) issued a press release restating the urgency of the situation and laying out actions it will take in coming months to protect water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.
“Every sector in every state has a responsibility to ensure that water is used with maximum efficiency. In order to avoid a catastrophic collapse of the Colorado River System and a future of uncertainty and conflict, water use in the Basin must be reduced,” Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo said. “The Interior Department is employing prompt and responsive actions and investments to ensure the entire Colorado River Basin can function and support all who rely on it. We are grateful for the hardworking public servants who have dedicated their lives to this work, and who are passionate about the long-term sustainability of Basin states, Tribes, and communities.”
“They said, ‘Well, we appreciate all of the efforts, and here’s what the August 24-month study shows, and here’s what we’re going to do for the next year, which is basically consistent with the 2007 guidelines with a modification,’” Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District General Counsel John McClow said.
That modification from the already existing agreement, McClow said, was to hold 480,000 acre feet of water back in Lake Powell to protect the critical elevation of 3,525 feet, but to treat it as if it went to Lake Mead for the purpose of water accounting.
“So, nothing new,” McClow said. “But they said they were still looking to the states to come up with an answer. Basically, I think it was unrealistic to expect the states to deliver a plan to cut the river use by 2 to 4 million acre feet in 60 days. It just wasn’t feasible.”
The problem remains that aridification in the West has meant significantly less available water in the system over the past 20 years. That is compounded by what some have called a “structural imbalance” in how the water is used between the upper and lower basins. In 2021, for instance, the Lower Basin states consumed over 10 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River, while the Upper Basin states combined consumed 3.5 million acre-feet.