As Deadline Looms, @Arizona Cancels Another @Drought Planning Meeting — The Phoenix New Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Verde River near Clarkdale along Sycamore Canyon Road. Photo credit: Wikimedia

From The Phoenix New Times (Elizabeth Whitman):

A major public meeting in Arizona that was scheduled for Thursday to discuss plans to deal with a potential drought on the Colorado River has been canceled. Again.

For the second time in two weeks, the 38-member steering committee for Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan needs more time to negotiate and will not meet as planned, the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project said in two announcements on Monday and Tuesday.

Sally Lee, spokesperson for the ADWR, said that steering committee members were notified at around 2 p.m. on Monday and on Tuesday. Last month’s canceled October 25 meeting was called off with even less notice — less than 48 hours’ worth.

Initially, organizers said Thursday’s steering committee meeting would be replaced with a private workgroup meeting to discuss mitigation. But by Tuesday, that private meeting had been canceled too, per steering committee co-chairs Tom Buschatzke, director of the ADWR, and Ted Cooke, general manager of CAP…

“Stakeholders participating in mitigation discussions have indicated that there are still major areas of conceptual disagreement that are not likely to be reconciled” before Thursday, the cancellation notice on the Central Arizona Project’s website read on Tuesday…

By the end of November, the committee is supposed to negotiate how potential water cuts would be distributed among the Arizona’s water users, if Lake Mead enters into an official drought in 2020. Arizona’s own negotiations are part of a broader effort by seven states to deal with the potential drought on the Colorado River.

The odds of this are about 50/50, according the federal Bureau of Reclamation. A Tier 1 drought shortage is declared if the Lake Mead reservoir’s levels drop below 1,075 feet above sea level. At 5 p.m. on November 6, its levels stood just above 1,078 feet. Lake Mead supplies Arizona with 40 percent of its water.

Heather Macre, a board member of the Central Arizona Project who does not sit on the steering committee but is familiar with the negotiations, said that everyone was concerned about making the November deadline. But she also suggested it was somewhat flexible, because Arizona needs to get legislative approval for its plan, and the legislative session doesn’t begin until January.

“Even if we have it mostly done by November and we’re still tweaking in December, we can get it to the Legislature in January,” Macre said. No one really wanted to do that, she added.

“I don’t want to push the deadline any more than anyone else does,” she said. “I think we can get it done by the end of the month. And if we don’t, we still do have a little bit of time.”

On-Going Experiment In High-Volume CO River Releases From Glen Canyon Dam Set — Arizona Department of Water Resources

Before and after photos of results of the high flow experiment in 2008 via USGS

From the Arizona Department of Water Resources:

Science is all about experimentation, and one of the more spectacular experiments in the movement of Colorado River sediment is set to begin in a matter of days.

Beginning November 5, the Department of Interior will begin a High-Flow Experiment (HFE) release of water out of Glen Canyon Dam, slowly ramping up the volume to 38,100 cubic feet per second, which it will maintain for 60 hours over three days.

The forceful water release is intended to mimic the floods that once drove enormous volumes of sand through the river canyons prior to the construction of Glen Canyon Dam, which rebuilt eroded sandbars downstream.

Those reconstituted, enlarged beaches serve a number of valuable purposes – from providing camping space for river-rafters to creating backwater habitat for native fish populations. The enlarged eddies and pools enhanced by those bigger sandbars also encourage the growth of riparian vegetation that provides habitat for birds and other wildlife.

The upcoming “HFE” release is the first under the newly minted 2016 Record of Decision for the Glen Canyon Dam, which provides a framework for adaptively managing Glen Canyon Dam over the next 20 years. The goal of the “ROD” is to create certainty and predictability for water and power users while protecting environmental and cultural resources in Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River ecosystem.

The high-volume water release experiment, meanwhile, is a component of the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act, which mandated that Glen Canyon Dam be operated in a manner that protects the values for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon Recreational Area were established. The first-ever release was conducted in 1996. Known as the Beach Habitat Building Flow, it was designed to mimic the dynamics of a natural system, including building high-elevation sandbars, depositing nutrients, and restoring backwater channels.

Given its unprecedented mission – imitating the sediment-rich flood conditions of a pre-Glen Canyon Dam river – the HFE releases have been genuinely experimental, adapting and changing as more data were accumulated about their impact.

The Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam. Photo credit: USBR

@USBR selects three submissions to receive prizes for the eradication of invasive mussels in open water prize competition

Quaggas on sandal at Lake Mead

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced today that Reclamation has selected three submissions for its prize competition seeking ideas to eradicate mussels in open water. Steven Suhr and Marie-Claude Senut will receive a full award of $80,000 for their idea while Wen Chen and Absar Alum with Stephanie Bone will each receive $10,000.

“Providing water managers with new tools to control invasive quagga and zebra mussels is an important part of protecting infrastructure and ecosystems,” Commissioner Burman said. “Reclamation is committed to working with our partners to prevent the spread of quagga and zebra mussels in the West.”

The prize competition was a theoretical challenge and sought innovative solutions to eradicate invasive quagga and zebra mussels from large reservoirs, lakes and rivers in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner. Invasive mussel infestations pose a significant logistical and economic challenge for local communities, recreationists and water managers. There is no practical method available today for the large-scale control of invasive dreissenid mussel population once they become established.

Steven Suhr and Marie-Claude Senut, founders of Biomilab, LLC, proposed using genomic modification to induce a lethal malignant hemic neoplasia in mussels that can be transferred from one mussel to another by proximity. They suggested utilizing the CRISPR/cas9-mediated genome modification to target the function or expression of endogenous dreissenid mussel p53 or telomerase reverse transcriptase genes, or to introduce the viral SV40 Tag gene. This submission for the prize competition received $80,000.

Wen Chen, a research scientist at Harvard Medical School, proposed utilizing single stranded DNA/RNA oligonucleotide-based aptamers to target the modified amino acid 3,4 dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) or dreissenid specific foot proteins to interrupt attachment, eventually leading to mussel mortality. The use of aptamers to target DOPA and foot proteins to interrupt mussel settlement is a novel idea and received $10,000.

Absar Alum of BioDetek with Stephanie Bone proposed genome modification to develop male mussels that produce sperm containing a light triggered optogenetic switch to drive upregulation or downregulation of cyclin-b expression resulting in death of the fertilized egg. This strategy relies on sunlight penetration into the upper portions of a water body to turn on the optogenetic switch in free-floating, transparent developing eggs and embryos. It was found to be a novel idea and received $10,000.

A total of 238 solvers signed up to solve this challenge and more than 100 solvers submitted solutions. Of those solutions submitted, 67 were deemed viable and were judged. Reclamation collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Molloy & Associates on this prize competition. To learn more about this prize competition please visit https://www.usbr.gov/research/challenges/mussels.html.

The results of this prize competition will support a broader effort by the federal government, as well as work by the Western Governors’ Association, western states, and tribes to protect western ecosystems, water infrastructure and hydroelectric facilities from invasive mussels. To learn more, please visit https://www.usbr.gov/mussels.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a method of genome editing that exploits a natural DNA-snipping enzyme in bacteria, called Cas9 (CRISPR-associated protein 9) to target and edit particular genes. CRISPR stands for Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, which are segments of DNA of a particular structure found widely in bacteria and archaea (prokaryotes). In the wild, the CRISPR-Cas9 system is part of the prokaryotic immune system, which can snip out of the genome DNA acquired from foreign sources such as phages (bacterial viruses). The same molecular machinery is now being used to enable genetic material to be cut from and pasted into the genomes of other organisms, including eukaryotes such as humans. It might offer a tool for curing genetically based diseases. Graphic via Cambridge University

@USBR begins Mancos Water Conservancy District repayment contract negotations for Jackson Gulch Canal System rehabilitation, November 5, 2018

Jackson Gulch Dam photo via USBR

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Marc Miller, Justyn Liff):

The Bureau of Reclamation is initiating negotiations on an amended repayment contract with the Mancos Water Conservancy District for the rehabilitation of the Jackson Gulch Canal System and other infrastructure. The first negotiation meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 5, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. at the Mancos Community Center, 117 North Main Street, Mancos, Colorado.

The amended contract to be negotiated will provide updated terms, and further flexibility to fund rehabilitation work for the project. All negotiations are open to the public as observers, and the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments pertaining to the contract during a thirty-minute comment period following the negotiation session.

The proposed contract and other pertinent documents will be available at the negotiation meeting, or can be obtained on our website at: http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/index.html, under Current Focus or by contacting Marc Miller at 185 Suttle Street, Suite 2, Durango, Colorado, 81301, 970 385-6541 or mbmiller@usbr.gov.

Water year 2018 closes as one of driest on record for upper #ColoradoRiver Basin — @AspenJournalism #COriver #aridification

Drying in process on the Colorado River, where Lake Powell once stood, in early October 2018. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

Colorado water managers are saying good riddance to water year 2018. It enters the history books alongside 2002 and 1977 as one of the driest on record for the Upper Colorado River Basin.

According to preliminary numbers from the Bureau of Reclamation, water year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, had the third-lowest unregulated inflow into Lake Powell at 4.62 million acre-feet. That’s just 43 percent of average.

Only 1977 and 2002 saw less water flow into Lake Powell from the upper basin, at 3.53 million acre-feet and 2.64 million acre-feet, respectively.

The average yearly inflow is 10.8 million acre-feet.

The months of August and September 2018 were the third- and fourth-worst months for unregulated inflows into Lake Powell behind only July and August of 2002.

The unregulated flow in August was just 2 percent of average. Lake Powell is currently 46 percent full.

“We know if we have another drought, the risk of draining Lake Powell is real,” said Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River Water Conservation District and chairman of the Colorado Basin Roundtable. “If we have another year as bad as this one, you’re going to see lots of discussions about who’s going to take reductions. We really need three, four, several years of average or above-average snow years to get us out of this pickle.”

Low flows in the Roaring Fork River just above Rio Grande Park, in July 2012. Water year 2018 surpassed 2012 as third driest in terms of inflow into Lake Powell from the Upper Colorado River Basin. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

Roaring Fork conditions

Locally, the Roaring Fork watershed was extremely dry this water year. The region was plagued by record-low snowpack — the lowest snow-water equivalent ever recorded for some dates at the McClure Pass and Independence Pass SNOTEL sites — sparse runoff, record-low streamflows and a hot, dry summer.

Low flows were prevalent across Colorado during the last two weeks of the water year, which runs from October through September. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s drought information system, 30 percent of U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges in the intermountain West reported record-low seven-day-average stream flows for the last two weeks of September, including some in the Roaring Fork watershed.

On Sunday, the last day of the water year, the USGS river gauge on the Roaring Fork at Stillwater Road just east of Aspen showed the river flowing at 19 cubic feet per second, beating the previous minimum flow of 21 cfs in 1977.

Flows on the Crystal River were similarly low. Above Avalanche Creek and above a series of diversion structures, the river was running at nearly 46 cfs, lower than the previous record low of 48 cfs in 1977.

At the river gauge near the state fish hatchery and downstream from several diversion structures just outside of Carbondale, flows dribbled down at just under 7 cfs Sunday.

Colorado Department of Water Resources Engineer for Division 5 Alan Martellaro said the summer’s weak monsoons exacerbated conditions caused by little snowfall.

“We had a bad snowpack,” Martellaro said. “It was not the worst, but then we have had an incredibly dry summer, a total lack of rain. I think when we start analyzing it, we are going to find the flows in late summer are unprecedented. We have done some things we have never done before.”

Martellaro is referring to curtailment on the lower Crystal in late July. Amid rapidly dropping flows, the district 38 water commissioner turned down the headgate of the Lowline Ditch, which he determined was diverting too much water. The ditch diversion did not exceed its legally decreed amount; the problem was that it was violating new state guidelines regarding wasting water.

According to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, many sites around western Colorado rank as the driest since recording began for water-year precipitation, including McClure Pass, Schofield Pass and Independence Pass.

Statewide, the water year precipitation average at all SNOTEL sites measured just 21.4 inches, which is 64 percent of average — the second-lowest on record behind only 2002.

“It was pretty consistently dry throughout the entire year,” said Karl Wetlaufer, a hydrologist with the NRCS Colorado Snow Survey. “February may have been the only month where we had near-normal precipitation across the state.”

Paonia Reservoir was at 7 percent full at the end of September. Water year 2018 ranked as the third driest in the Colorado River Basin. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Reservoirs low

In some instances, reservoir releases have come to the rescue of downstream anglers, fish and ecosystems.

Releases from Ruedi Reservoir will continue through October to bolster flows for endangered fish in what’s known as the 15-mile reach, a notoriously dry section of the Colorado River between the Palisade area and the confluence with the Gunnison River in Grand Junction.

[Reclamation has been releasing water from] Ruedi Reservoir.

Periodic releases from Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling also boosted summer flows in the Colorado River. But that water will need to be replaced this winter by snowfall, Martellaro said. Ruedi Reservoir is currently 63 percent full while Green Mountain Reservoir is nearly 46 percent full.

“Where we have large reservoirs that can supplement the flows, yeah, we’ve gotten by,” Martellaro said. “But even that is coming to an end. We are running out. It remains to be seen what the snowpack is like to refill these large holes we’ve put in these reservoirs.”

Water year 2018 Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation accumulation via the NRCS.

@USBR: #ColoradoRiver Basin Drought Contingency Plans #COriver #aridification

Photo credit: Bureaus of Reclamation

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation:

Colorado River Basin States make important progress towards adopting effective Drought Contingency Plans in 2018

In December 2017, Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman called on the seven Colorado River Basin States and water entitlement holders in the Lower Colorado Basin to continue developing Drought Contingency Plans (DCPs) in response to ongoing historic drought conditions in the Basin and reduce the likelihood of Colorado River reservoirs – particularly Lake Powell and Lake Mead – further declining to critical elevations. All seven Colorado River Basin States have been working diligently throughout 2018 on a set of draft DCP agreements that would implement Drought Contingency Plans in the Upper and Lower Basins. The agreements include an Upper Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan and a Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan.

The Upper Basin DCP is designed to: a) protect critical elevations at Lake Powell and help assure continued compliance with the 1922 Colorado River Compact, and b) authorize storage of conserved water in the Upper Basin that could help establish the foundation for a Demand Management Program that may be developed in the future.
The Lower Basin DCP is designed to: a) require Arizona, California and Nevada to contribute additional water to Lake Mead storage at predetermined elevations, and b) create additional flexibility to incentivize additional voluntary conservation of water to be stored in Lake Mead.

The Upper and Lower Basin DCPs contain actions in addition to the provisions of the December 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The Upper and Lower Basin DCPs are available for download here: Upper and Lower Basin DCPs – Final Review Draft. (PDF – 668 KB)

Detailed Colorado River Basin map via the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

From The Los Angeles Times (Bettina Boxall):

After years of stop-and-go talks, California and two other states that take water from the lower Colorado River are nearing an agreement on how to share delivery cuts if a formal shortage is declared on the drought-plagued waterway.

Under the proposed pact, California — the river’s largest user — would reduce diversions earlier in a shortage than it would if the lower-basin states strictly adhered to a water-rights pecking order. California’s huge river take would drop 4.5% to 8% as the shortage progressed.

With occasional years of relief, the river that greens farm fields and fills faucets from Colorado to California has been stuck in drought since 2000. A shortage declaration has been looming over the seven-state basin for more than a decade, only to be narrowly averted time and again when rain and snow in the upper basin pushed reservoir levels above the trigger point.

But flows into Lake Powell — one of the Colorado’s two massive reservoirs — fell to a little more than a third of the average for the April-through-July period this year. And September’s inflow was negligible, less than 1% of the average. Looking at those numbers, federal officials say the U.S. Interior Department could declare a shortage in 2020.

“It’s pretty clear we’re in a deepening long-term drought cycle,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has been importing Colorado River water to the region since the early 1940s. “It’s in everybody’s interest to prevent the system from cratering.”

The basin’s entire storage system is 47% full. Lake Powell, which stores runoff from the upper basin and releases it to Lake Mead, is 45% full. Mead, the source of Southern California’s river water, is 38% full.

The Interior secretary has never declared a shortage on the Colorado. But it has been known for years that the river is over-allocated. The basin states divvied up the flows in the early 20th century — a period that in hindsight was unusually wet and presented an unrealistic picture of what the Colorado could produce year in and year out.

Diversions are regulated by a complicated system of river compacts and water rights that call for Arizona and Nevada to take the first cuts in times of a lower-basin shortage. California, with some of the oldest river rights, is further down the line.

The sprawling Imperial Irrigation District and other farm districts in southeastern California control roughly 75% of California’s 4.4 million-acre-foot share. Imperial is the single largest user on the entire length of the river, which starts at the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies and has an average annual flow of roughly 15 million acre-feet.

Metropolitan has nearly doubled its base allocation of 550,000 acre-feet through agreements with Imperial and other irrigation districts that fallow crop land and sell their unused river supplies. Those deals would help cushion Metropolitan, which serves Southern California, if a shortage is declared. (An acre-foot is enough to supply more than two households for a year.)

Metropolitan would also benefit from water it has been able to bank in Lake Mead under 2007 drought guidelines that have allowed states to leave unused portions of their river allocations in the reservoir. Under the previous use-it-or-lose-it rules, states had to take their full allocation every year.

The 2007 framework specified that the Department of the Interior would declare a shortage when Lake Mead’s elevation hit 1,075 feet. Nevada and Arizona, which have rights junior to California, would then start delivery reductions.

Under the proposed drought contingency plan, Arizona and Nevada would continue to take the first cuts, which would be deeper than outlined in 2007. At the same time, California would reduce its river diversions when Mead levels hit 1,045 feet — earlier in the shortage than previously envisioned.

California’s cuts, shared by Imperial and Metropolitan, would increase as the lake level dropped but be no greater than 350,000 acre-feet a year.

Arizona is still working out the details of how to apportion its cuts among in-state users. And the lower-basin water districts have yet to approve the drought plan, which parties are hoping to finalize by December.

From Water Edcuation Colorado (Jerd Smith):

Colorado and three other states could set aside up to 500,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell in coming years, enough to serve 1 million homes, under a far-reaching agreement to protect the drought-stricken Colorado River and water supplies for 40 million people in the American West.

“We are in a very dire situation in the Colorado River Basin and it could be more dire if this year’s snowpack looks like last year’s snowpack,” said James Eklund, who represents Colorado on the Upper Colorado River Commission.

Eklund’s comments came Tuesday in a conference call with more than 200 people, including water officials from across the Colorado Basin and members of the public. The call unveiled a series of agreements that will, if formally approved by Congress and others, constitute a first-ever basin-wide drought plan designed to avoid mandatory water cutbacks among those who rely on the Colorado River.

Seven states comprise the Colorado River Basin: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.

Among the agreements is a drought plan covering the Lower Basin states, which include Nevada, Arizona and California. A second drought plan covers the Upper Basin States, which include Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. Additional agreements that involve collaboration among all seven states, Mexico, Indian tribes with claims to the river, and the federal government are also included.

In the announcement Tuesday, the Lower Basin and Upper Basin states agreed to one another’s drought plans and to take steps to begin implementing them. The announcement has been months in the making, stalled at various times by political disputes.

“The Lower Basin has taken off any hold that it had in the negotiations, and we have done the same with them,” Eklund said. “We’ve progressed to the point where we’re holding hands now and moving forward together.”

The Upper Basin Drought Contingency Plan has two components: The first involves new storage in Powell and an aggressive 500,000-acre-foot water savings plan, in which water users in each of the four Upper Basin states would voluntarily agree to reduce water use. Their saved water would then be stored in a protected pool in Lake Powell. Any farmer or city that contributes to the drought pool would be paid.

How those water savings would be achieved and who would pay for them has yet to be determined and each Upper Basin state would have to agree to participate, said Karen Kwon, an attorney with the Colorado Attorney General’s Federal and Interstate Water Unit who has been helping write and negotiate the agreements.

The second component involves a new operating agreement that would allow water to be released from Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado, Navajo Reservoir in New Mexico and part of Colorado, and Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming and Utah and sent down to Powell in times when it is needed.

Officials hope the agreements can be approved by water users, the states and Congress and finalized next year, Kwon said.

“I think this is really hopeful,” said Melinda Kassen, senior counsel at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Trust who also sits on Colorado’s Interbasin Compact Committee, a group that monitors water issues within the state and between its major river basins.

“We’ve been talking about this kind of account in Lake Powell for a number of years, but the Lower Basin would never consider it. They didn’t want us to be able to store water in Powell that wasn’t subject to [use by the Lower Basin]. That position has changed now. That’s what makes this announcement so important,” Kassen said.

The agreements come after a devastating year in which Colorado and other states saw some of the lowest snowpacks and streamflows on record. Flows into Lake Powell were roughly one-third of average and Powell and Mead are now just 44 percent full on a combined basis.

Since 2007, the Colorado River Basin has been operating under a set of interim rules designed to protect Powell and Mead from dropping so low that either power production or expected water deliveries would be impacted.

But those rules were based on much higher projected river flows than have materialized since then.

“The drought we’re in is actually drier than we had anticipated under the 2007 guidelines,” Kwon said.

As water levels in Powell and Mead have dropped, alarm among water officials has been rising.

Colorado and other Upper Basin states are legally required to deliver 8.23 million acre-feet of water from Lake Powell in any given year. Because this year was so dry, even more was needed, and under the 2007 interim guidelines the Upper Basin states had to release 9 maf from their dwindling supplies in Powell.

At the same time, Lower Basin states have watched supplies in Lake Mead decline as well. Under the plan unveiled Tuesday, these states would have to take additional steps to use less water and leave more in Lake Mead. All told, they hope to store an additional 100,000 acre-feet of water in Mead, an amount they hope will keep the giant reservoir operational.

Kwon describes the drought agreements as a Band-Aid designed to keep the river system functioning until a new set of interim guidelines are written in 2026 that better reflect the lower snowpacks the region is now routinely seeing.

How successful Colorado will be in creating a water-saving program is unknown. The trick will be getting Front Range and West Slope water interests on the same page. The state’s Western Slope interests have been concerned for years that they would be the first forced to give up water in a situation such as the one the state faces now.

Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs, said he’s grateful the process is moving forward. But he said the West Slope would have to see the state formally adopt a policy that would, in effect, guarantee that any water conservation plan is voluntary, that users are paid, that it is temporary in nature, and that it draws water equally from the Front Range and the West Slope. Without such a policy, Mueller said it would be difficult to support Colorado’s drought contingency plan.

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

From Western Resource Advocates:

Today, Western Resource Advocates welcomed the release of tentative agreements shared by the seven states in the Colorado River Basin, an effort to provide water security to the 40 million people who rely on the river.

According to the latest hydrologic reports, 2018 has been one of the driest years on record, adding to the stresses on the river, which supplies water to some of the fastest-growing communities in the United States. In August, the Bureau of Reclamation reported that water levels in Lake Mead are falling so fast that mandatory cutbacks of the water delivered to Arizona and Nevada could be required by 2020.

Western Resource Advocates is among the group of businesses, water experts, local governments, and conservation organizations working together to find the best ways to protect the health of the Colorado River while meeting the needs of cities, farms, and businesses.

Bart Miller, Healthy Rivers Program Director for Western Resource Advocates, issued the following statement about the progress:

“The proposed Drought Contingency Plans shared this week are a significant step in the right direction for the farmers, communities, and businesses who depend on the Colorado River for drinking water, recreation, and irrigation. While much work remains to be done, we applaud the progress that has been made so far, and we encourage all of the major parties to stay at the negotiating table and continue to be transparent as the documents move toward becoming final.

“After years of drought and over-use, the Colorado River is at a crisis point. We must take decisive, proactive steps now, or states across the West will lose water they rely on. We believe that collaborative solutions can be found to mitigate impacts to water users, protect our communities, encourage appropriate economic growth, and preserve the iconic rivers, habitat, and species of the American West.”

@USBR selects 54 projects to receive $26.5 million to improve water efficiency in the West

Photo credit NRCS via the Julesburg Advocate.

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation:

Water and energy efficiency grants focus on projects that improve water management including projects that conserve water

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced that Reclamation has selected 54 projects to receive a total of $26.5 million through WaterSMART water and energy efficiency grants. This funding will be leveraged to accomplish approximately $167 million in improvements throughout the West. The projects funded with these grants include canal lining and piping, automated gates and control systems, and installation of advanced metering.

“President Trump is dedicated to better water infrastructure for communities and farmers, and adequate and safe water supplies are fundamental to the health, economy, and security of the country,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “WaterSMART water and energy efficiency grants enable Interior, states, tribes, and local entities to work together to take action to increase available water supply through infrastructure investments.”

“Improving water efficiency is an important part of ensuring communities have a reliable water supply in the future,” Commissioner Burman said. “The projects we’ve selected today will help communities throughout the Western United States by providing them with tools they can use to better manage their water needs.”

Water and energy efficiency grants focus on projects that conserve and use water more efficiently. Projects may also lessen the risk of future water conflicts and provide other benefits that contribute to water supply reliability in the western United States. Other projects complement on-farm improvements that can be carried out with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to accomplish coordinated water conservation improvements.

Funding is provided in two groups. Funding Group I projects receive up to $300,000 and can be completed within two years. Funding Group II projects may receive up to $1 million for a phased project up to three years.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes near Pocatello, Idaho, will receive $888,818 to replace a 1,500-horsepower pump on the Portneuf River and install a new variable frequency drive pump. It will also line one mile of earthen canal to reduce water losses due to seepage. The project is expected to result in a water savings of 5,628 acre-feet per year which will increase tribal water supply and improve drought resiliency.

The Mapleton Irrigation District and Company near Provo, Utah, will replace three miles of existing open canals and a box culvert in Hobble Creek Canyon with a pressurized pipeline that will eliminate water losses due to seepage, evaporation and ditch failure. They will receive $300,000 towards the $1.2 million project. It is expected to result in an annual water savings of 1,685 acre-feet each year.

The City of Bakersfield will receive $743,300 to install monitoring devices with telemetry at 20 locations along the Kern River and a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system to accurately and remotely measure Kern River diversions. The $1.6 million project will result in an annual water savings of 4,592 acre-feet that will be used to replenish the local groundwater and make more water available to users, helping to reduce the potential for water-related conflicts in the area.

The complete list of projects is available at https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg/. Projects were selected through a competitive process and must provide a minimum of a 50-percent cost-share.

Visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart for additional information about the WaterSMART program.