A wet winter won’t stave off the #ColoradoRiver’s #water cuts — The Washington Post #COriver #aridification

Lake Powell has been about a quarter-full. The snowpack looks strong now, but it’s anybody’s guess whether there will be enough runoff come April and May to substantially augment the reservoir. May 2022 photo/Allen Best

Click the link to read the article on The Washington Post website (Joshua Partlow). Here’s an excerpt:

The abundant snow in the Rocky Mountains this year has been a welcome relief but is not enough to overcome two decades of drought that has pushed major reservoirs along the Colorado River down to dangerous levels, Camille Calimlim Touton, the commissioner for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said on Monday at the outset of a three-day trip along the river with a bipartisan delegation of senators to push for an agreement on how to conserve an unprecedented amount of water.

SNOTEL stations Colorado River Basin via the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center

The snowpack that feeds the Colorado River — which 40 million people rely on in the West — is currently at 154 percent of average for this time of year, Touton said…

The trip comes as negotiations between the seven states of the Colorado River basin have stalled, with California proposing one plan for cuts and the other six states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah — offering another. The Interior Department is expected to publish an environmental review later this month intended to clarify its authority to make unilateral cuts to water usage and how those could be distributed if the states don’t reach an agreement…Colorado Democratic Sens. Michael F. Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined Wyoming Sen. Cynthia M. Lummis (R) for the trip, which is expected to include visits to Arizona, Nevada, and California — the Lower Basin states where the most contentious decisions will need to be made to reach the scale of cuts that the federal government is calling for.

“The future of the American West is at stake,” Bennet told reporters…

the states have yet to resolve their differences. In January, the six states agreed to an approach that would cut 1.5 million acre-feet by attributing losses mostly to evaporation of the water as the river travels through a network of reservoirs and canals in the southern states on its way to Mexico. That method would translate to particularly large cuts for California, which uses the biggest share of the river. California has rejected that approach and said that it goes against the long-standing system of water rights that has been established over more than a century. Under laws and court rulings dating back decades, in times of shortage, Arizona would lose its right to its water before California. California’s plan calls for more gradual initial reductions that intensify as reservoirs fall further, hitting Arizona particularly hard. Arizona water authorities view the California plan as impossible for their state to stomach.

Map credit: AGU

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