Why a #ColoradoRiver reunion with the sea isn’t a guarantee — @HighCountryNews #Minute323 #COriver

Colorado River pulse flow (Minute 319) reaches the Sea of Cortez for the first time since 1998 on May 15, 2014 via the Sonoran Institute

Here’s a report from Emily Benson writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole analysis. Here’s an excerpt:

For many people, the 2014 “pulse flow,” a large release of water from Morelos Dam, on the U.S.-Mexico border, was the defining feature of the 2012 agreement. The agreement also addressed drought, reservoir storage and environmental restoration in the Colorado River Delta. The 2014 release reunited the Colorado River with the Gulf of California for the first time since the late 1990s; it was both a scientific and symbolic success as communities along the Colorado River saw its dry channel once again fill with water. But the pulse flow also showed that a single release of water may not be the most efficient way to revitalize the Delta. So while the new agreement, called Minute 323, includes environmental water releases, it doesn’t specifically call for another pulse flow.

@CAPArizona: Historic Agreement Signed to Protect #ColoradoRiver #Minute323 #COriver

Roberto Salmon and Edward Drusina at the Minute 323 signing ceremony September 27, 2017. Photo credit .U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

From the Central Arizona Project:

Since September 2015, the United States, the seven Colorado River Basin states, and key water users including CAWCD, have been working with their counterparts in Mexico to develop a successor agreement to Minute 319, now known as Minute 323.

The direct negotiations with Mexico included the Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) representing the interests of Arizona. CAWCD staff participated in several work groups supporting the negotiation effort. The Minute was finalized by the Commissioners of the International Boundary and Water Commission in the United States and the Republic of Mexico on September 27, 2017.

The Minute provides significant and lasting benefits to water users in Mexico and the United States, including CAP water users. The Minute provides for new investments in water conservation infrastructure in Mexico which will make water uses in the Mexicali Valley more efficient for the long-term. Mexico and the U.S. agreed to share the risks of shortages and to share opportunities for surplus Colorado River water. In addition, Mexico agreed to participate in additional actions to protect Lake Mead, in the event that the U.S. water users implement a Drought Contingency Plan in the U.S. The new Minute is an extension and expansion of the collaborative and cooperative efforts to protect Lake Mead and sustain the shared resources of the Colorado River.

CAWCD has participated in the binational process between the United States and Mexico since 2008 to achieve four main goals, which have been included in Minute 323:

  • Decrease the duration or magnitude of shortages by seeking Mexico’s voluntary agreement to share in Colorado River shortages with U.S. water users.
  • Increase the storage in Lake Mead through the development and implementation of water conservation projects in Mexico.
  • Augment CAP water supplies through the implementation of conservation projects in Mexico and explore binational desalination projects to benefit Arizona and Mexico water users.
  • Manage salinity compliance operations so that river operational changes made as part of these agreements will not reduce Arizona’s return flows and thereby reduce CAP deliveries.
  • The key components on Minute 323 are:

  • Effective through 2026, consistent with the 2007 Guidelines.
  • Shortage is shared – if one country is in shortage, then the other country is in shortage with the same triggers that are identified for U.S. water users in the 2007 Guidelines; this is similar to Minute 319.
  • Surplus is shared – if one country can receive surplus, then the other country can receive surplus with the same initial trigger as U.S. water users as identified in the 2007 Guidelines; this is also similar to Minute 319.
  • Binational conservation projects have been expanded through the commitment to fund specified conservation projects in Mexico, to develop and fund additional projects, and to study binational desalination in the Gulf of California region.
  • Environmental flows and habitat restoration in the Colorado River delta region in Mexico will continue to be funded.
  • Salinity management projects will be expanded to improve the water quality of deliveries to Mexico while minimizing the impact to U.S. water users.
  • Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan has Mexico taking additional voluntary reductions upon the implementation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, with the Mexico reductions similar to the Lower Basin states at the same elevation triggers.
  • In order to implement the Minute, a series of domestic agreements between U.S. parties were also executed. Overall, there are eight domestic agreements necessary to implement Minute 323 in Arizona and CAWCD is a party to six of these agreements, including a Memorandum of Agreement with ADWR. The CAWCD Board approved the execution of these agreements at the Board meeting on August 3, 2017. The domestic agreements were executed simultaneously with Minute 323. These agreements will serve to provide additional protection for CAP water users, and further CAWCD’s cooperative actions with its interstate and international partners to protect its Colorado River supply.

    #Minute323 earmarks additional #restoration water for #ColoradoRiver Delta #COriver

    From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

    …a second round of releases is headed to the delta that won’t be nearly as dramatic [as the Minute 319 pulse flow]. But these flows will restore more riverfront with cottonwoods and willows than the last time and their impacts will likely last longer.

    The new U.S.-Mexico Colorado River agreement, announced last week, sets aside 210,000 acre-feet of river water for environmental restoration in the delta over nine years, starting next year. This 2017 agreement also calls on the two countries to share shortages on the river in equal proportions in times of drought.

    The earlier, 2012 agreement under which the huge pulse flow was unleashed also enabled the more gradual release of another 53,000 acre-feet over four years that will end Dec. 31, 2017.

    The first round of flows has restored about 1,100 acres of cottonwood, willow and mesquite habitat, said Osvel Hinojosa, water and wetlands program director for Pro Natura Noroeste and a co-chair of an environmental working group that developed restoration ideas for the new agreement. Pro Natura is headquartered in Ensenada, Baja California.

    In that time, more than 230,000 native cottonwoods and willows were planted along the river, said a coalition of six U.S. and Mexican conservation groups calling itself Raise the River. The groups raised more than $10 million for restoration work and to buy water rights for those releases.

    This time, the goal is to restore about 4,300 acres over the next nine years, the new agreement says.

    Now, “We will see a resurgence of the Colorado in its delta, the ribbon of green that is re-emerging in the Sonoran Desert,” said Jennifer Pitt of the National Audubon Society at last week’s signing ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “It offers relief to every living being that seeks rest in the cool shade of a cottonwood, renewal in the bounty of life that flows from the waters of the Colorado River. We are finding new ways to share the water, among our communities, but also with hundreds of thousands of egrets, herons, flycatchers, rails and other birds that need it to survive.”

    Although smaller pulse flows may be released later, the immediate plan is to focus on lesser, steadier amounts of base flows, Hinojosa said. Pulse flows release lots of water over short periods from a single point such as the dam. Base flows deliver lesser amounts, often over longer periods to specific restoration sites.

    “At this point, the best way to proceed with restoration is base flows. That’s the best use of the water,” said Karl Flessa, a University of Arizona geosciences professor who oversaw the scientific monitoring of the 2014 pulse-flow impacts and hopes to be involved in similar work this time.

    A lot of the 2014 pulse flow infiltrated into deep groundwater and was not available to nourish cottonwoods and other trees, he said.

    “By applying base flows to restoration sites, you make sure water gets to the right place at the right time,” Flessa said.

    Hinojosa said he considers base and pulse flows equally valuable, and may want to use smaller pulse flows for social purposes — allowing people living nearby to enjoy water in the river and reconnect with nature.

    #ColoradoRiver: #MX and #US ink #Minute323 #COriver

    Roberto Salmon and Edward Drusina at the Minute 323 signing ceremony September 27, 2017. Photo credit .U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Lori Kuczmanski):

    UNITED STATES AND MEXICO CONCLUDE COLORADO RIVER AGREEMENT

    Officials with the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, today announced the conclusion of a new Colorado River agreement, Minute 323, “Extension of Cooperative Measures and Adoption of a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan in the Colorado River Basin.” Commission officials signed the Minute on September 21 in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and both governments approved it on September 27. The Minute’s entry into force was announced during a ceremony held at the Water Education Foundation’s Colorado River Symposium in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Minute follows more than two years of negotiations among federal and state authorities from both countries, taking into consideration recommendations from the works groups, which included water users, scientists, academics, and nongovernmental organizations.

    The agreement, which will remain in effect through 2026, extends or replaces key elements of Minute 319, a previous agreement that expires at the end of 2017. Minute 323 contains the following provisions:

  • Allows Mexico to defer delivery of a portion of its Colorado River allotment in the event of potential emergencies, such as earthquakes, or as a result of water conservation projects in Mexico. This water, known as Mexico’s Water Reserve, will be available for subsequent delivery to Mexico as determined through its planning processes. This gives Mexico greater flexibility in how it manages its Colorado River allotment while also boosting Lake Mead elevation to the benefit of all users.
  • Provides additional quantities of Colorado River water to Mexico during certain high elevation reservoir conditions at Lake Mead when additional water is available to users in the United States, providing benefits to both countries.
  • Establishes proactive basin operations during certain low elevation reservoir conditions at Lake Mead by applying water delivery reductions in order to deter more severe reductions in the future, giving certainty in both countries’ operations when these conditions occur.
  • Establishes a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan so that, should a Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan be put into effect in the United States, then Mexico will also undertake water savings in parity with U.S. savings. These savings will be recoverable when reservoir conditions improve.
  • Implements measures to address salinity impacts stemming from the joint cooperative actions, in conformance with the provisions of Minute 242, entitled, “Permanent and Definitive Solution to the International Problem of the Salinity of the Colorado River,” dated August 30, 1973.
  • Identifies measures to address daily flow variability in Colorado River water deliveries to Mexico.
  • Through a cooperative effort among the Governments of the United State and Mexico and nongovernmental organizations, provides water for the environment and funding for environmental monitoring and habitat restoration.
  • Provides greater U.S. investment in water infrastructure and environmental projects in Mexico than Minute 319 in order to modernize and improve Irrigation District 014 in the Mexicali Valley in areas that wish to participate. This will generate additional volumes of water that will be shared between both countries and the environment, in accordance with the Minute’s provisions.
  • Notes the ongoing efforts of the binational All-American Canal Turnout Project Work Group to examine resources associated with a potential binational connection between the All-American Canal in the United States and Mexico’s Colorado River Tijuana Aqueduct Pump Station PB 0.
  • “Minute 323 is the result of many rounds of technical discussions involving a broad group of stakeholders from both countries. This agreement puts us on a path of cooperation rather than conflict as we work with Mexico to address the Colorado River Basin’s many challenges,” said U.S. Commissioner Edward Drusina of the International Boundary and Water Commission.

    Mexican Commissioner Roberto Salmon said, “This agreement provides certainty for water operations in both countries and mainly establishes a planning tool that allows Mexico to define the most suitable actions for managing its Colorado River waters allotted by the 1944 Water Treaty.”

    Joining the Commissioners at the ceremony were David Bernhardt, United States Deputy Secretary of the Interior; Thomas Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources; Hillary Quam, Border Affairs Coordinator, U.S. Department of State Office of Mexican Affairs; and, from Mexico, Director General for North America Mauricio Ibarra of the Ministry of Foreign Relations.

    The International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, is responsible for applying the boundary and water treaties between the two countries. Under the 1944 Water Treaty, Mexico is allotted 1.5 million acre-feet (1850 million cubic meters) per year of water from the Colorado River

    From Raise the River (Lynne Bairstow):

    Minute 323 Agreement boosts water security for Colorado River water users, continues Delta restoration

    (September 27, 2017) – Today, policymakers, water agencies, and conservation organizations from the United States and Mexico gathered to confirm the signing of Minute 323, an addendum to the 1944 Water Treaty between the United States and Mexico. The successful negotiation and signing of this agreement demonstrates the power of collaboration and cooperation between the United States and Mexico governments, and supported by the Raise the River coalition of non-profit organizations, to achieve progress on water security for Colorado River water users.

    Raise the River Coalition’s public statement of support for Minute 323:

    We applaud the leadership and vision of water managers and state and federal officials in United States and Mexico in adopting the Minute 323 Agreement to provide for a more secure water future for all Colorado River water users, and support continued restoration of the Colorado River Delta.

    This new binational water sharing agreement shows the best of what collaboration can do, improving the reliability of the Colorado River water supply for everyone who uses it”. –Jennifer Pitt, Raise the River spokesperson and Colorado River Project Director, National Audubon Society

    Officially titled “Extension of Cooperative Measures and Adoption of a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan in the Colorado River Basin”, Minute 323 commits the United States and Mexico to work together to address potential Colorado River water shortages and to meet new water conservation and storage objectives. It represents the joint efforts of local, state, and the federal governments of both countries to set a course for a more secure water future for the more than 36 million people who rely on the Colorado River in the United States and Mexico.

    “This is an exciting day for both countries,” said Osvel Hinojosa, Water and Wetlands Program Director at Pronatura Noroeste, a Mexican non-profit conservation organization. “Especially for those of us who have worked in the delta for decades.”

    Pronatura Noroeste is a member of Raise the River – a unique partnership of six U.S. and Mexican non-governmental organizations committed to restoring the Colorado River Delta. Members include the National Audubon Society, Pronatura Noroeste, Restauremos el Colorado, A.C., Sonoran Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and the Redford Center. The coalition has worked with policymakers, water agencies, and governmental representatives from the United States and Mexico since 2012 to cooperatively create historic change for the Colorado River Delta.

    The Colorado River is one of the most critical sources of water in the West, supplying water to 36 million people and 5.5 million acres of agricultural land in seven states in the U.S. and two states in Mexico. More than 17 years of drought have diminished the reliability of the Colorado River water supply, putting an enormous population and economy at risk of disruptive water shortages. Proactive investments in water conservation, paired with agreements among Colorado River water users about how to share when the water supply is limited, will create the certainty needed to ensure that the region’s economies continue to thrive.

    As the Colorado River is shared by both the United States and Mexico, it is subject to various binational agreements extending back to the 1944 Water Treaty for the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande.

    The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and its Mexican counterpart (CILA) are the U.S. and Mexican federal agencies that negotiate and implement binational water treaties and water allocations. In 2012, the IBWC and CILA successfully negotiated Minute 319, an agreement that helped the two countries better implement the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty (these types of supplementary treaties agreements are referred to as ‘Minutes’). The result of this extraordinary binational collaboration, Minute 319 provided multiple benefits for water users on both sides of the border. It broadly provided for the United States and Mexico to share surpluses in times of plenty and reductions in times of drought and provided for water flows for the environment. The agreement also served to recognize the Colorado River Delta as a place of ecological significance for both countries.

    Minute 319 concludes on December 31, 2017. Its successor agreement, Minute 323, promotes a more secure water future while scaling up ongoing environmental restoration projects in the Delta.

    Specifically, Minute 323:

    • Provides for Mexico to continue to store its water in Lake Mead, helping to keep reservoir levels high enough to avoid triggering dramatic cuts to Colorado River water users.
    • Includes an agreement between both the United States and Mexico for voluntary water cutbacks in times of droughts that further staves off triggering a shortage declaration. Should a shortage be declared, these new commitments will slow progress towards even larger water shortages.
    • Commits US water managers to invest $31.5M in water efficiency projects in Mexico that will result in savings of more than 200,000 acre-feet of water. In return, the U.S. entities will receive a one-time water exchange, and over the long term, Mexico will benefit by generating additional water from these conservation programs and improved infrastructure.
    • Obliges both the United States and Mexico to each provide water and funding for continued habitat restoration and scientific monitoring in the Colorado River Delta through 2026, with Raise the River contributing matching amounts.

    “We have worked closely with the governments of Mexico and the United States to demonstrate the Colorado River Delta’s tremendous resilience,” states Hinojosa. “Through a combination of limited water deliveries and on-the-ground work to restore natural habitat, native vegetation is sustaining a great diversity of life in these sites and there has been a renewal of the community relationships and engagement that promote long-term stewardship of the river.”

    Raise the River has been a leading advocate of – and active participant in – the negotiation and drafting of Minute 323 to support continued cooperative Colorado River management between Mexico and the United States.

    “Minute 323 recommits the United States and Mexico in their successful partnership with NGOs to restore the Colorado River in its long-desiccated delta; this is a big win for people and for nature,” says Pitt.

    Raise the River’s successful habitat restoration under Minute 319 helped lay the foundation for Minute 323. Between 2013 and 2017 Raise the River provided active management of restoration sites, including base flows – smaller, periodic releases of water – to restore over 1,000 acres of riparian habitat along the river’s main channel, where more than 230,000 native cottonwoods and willow trees were planted. Raise the River was also an active participant in the scientific monitoring of the results of these environmental water flows.

    In addition to these restoration results, Raise the River established a water trust in Mexico that permanently acquired water rights from voluntary sellers in the Mexicali Valley to support their commitments. This was funded by raising more than $10M for restoration and water acquisition from US and Mexico foundations, corporations, federal agencies, and individuals.

    Raise the River engaged over 9,800 local residents, school children, and volunteers from around the world in on-site restoration work and environmental education programs, as well as created more than 140 jobs in 2016 alone, related to completing the restoration work.

    “Minute 323 represents a global model for managing shared watersheds in response to declining water supplies or long-term drought,” explains Pitt. “It also sets a standard of international cooperative management for countries working together to achieve mutually desired outcomes both for water users and for the environment.”

    Raise the River’s primary goal is to bring water and life back to the Colorado River Delta, and in doing so, create a model for future trans-national river restoration efforts throughout the world. In meeting our goal, we will rebuild the habitats that support local communities and wildlife.

    From The Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):

    Officials from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday signed a new water pact that brings Mexico in as a full partner on the Colorado River and could boost Lake Mead.

    The historic agreement, known as Minute 323 to the Mexican Water Treaty of 1944, spells out how much Mexico would have to reduce its river use in the event of a shortage on the Colorado and how much extra water the nation would get in a surplus.

    It also opens the door to more cross-border cooperation on water efficiency projects — including some paid for by the Southern Nevada Water Authority — that could help slow the declining water level in Lake Mead.

    To that end, Mexico has agreed to a series of voluntary reductions in its Colorado River use to prop up the reservoir east of Las Vegas and stave off more severe mandatory cuts.

    Nevada, Arizona and California have agreed in principle to similar voluntary cuts as part of a so-called Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan. Water managers hope the three states will finalize that plan sometime next year.

    The treaty amendment was signed by representatives from the International Boundary and Water Commission of the United States and Mexico during a Sept. 21 meeting in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It took effect Wednesday, after the governments of the two countries approved it.

    The treaty amendment also sets aside some river water and funding to support environmental restoration work south of the border, where the Colorado River Delta has been left dry by upstream diversions to farms and cities in the U.S. and Mexico. Aside from a few isolated floods, the river stopped emptying into the Gulf of California in the 1960s with the construction of Glen Canyon Dam and the creation of Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border.

    The new agreement extends and expands upon a 2012 deal between the two countries that allowed Mexico to store some of its unused river water in Lake Mead. That pact, known as Minute 319, was due to expire at the end of the year.

    Under Minute 323, the water authority, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and water agencies in Arizona and California will provide up to $31.5 million for water efficiency improvements in Mexico through 2026. In return, the contributing agencies would share as much as 229,100 acre-feet of Colorado River water, which is almost enough to supply the entire Las Vegas Valley for one year.

    Efficiency projects

    Mexico is expected to use the money to line canals, repair pipes, curb runoff from farm fields and make other water-saving improvements, mostly to its thirsty agricultural sector.

    The Southern Nevada Water Authority will get 27,275 acre-feet of water for its initial $3.75 million investment south of the border.

    If additional projects are identified after the first round of work in Mexico is done, the authority would chip in up to $3.75 million more in exchange for another 27,275 acre-feet from the river.
    One acre-foot of water will supply two average valley homes for just over a year. About 90 percent of the valley’s water supply comes from the Colorado by way of Lake Mead.

    From The Los Angeles Times (David Montero):

    The signing of the agreement in Santa Fe, N.M., was led by the International Boundary and Water Commission. The agency is responsible for overseeing water treaties between the United States and Mexico and is composed of representatives from both countries…

    Several water agencies in California, Nevada and Arizona have anticipated the agreement for weeks and were optimistic the conservation efforts aimed at Mexico would ultimately lead to more secure water supplies for residents and farmers who rely on Lake Mead and the Colorado River.

    Some of the conservation efforts in Mexico funded by the United States would include relining leaky canals, improving water pump systems and using more advanced runoff capture systems that allow water to be reclaimed and stored, according to officials familiar with the agreement.

    Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager John Entsminger, who attended the signing in New Mexico, said in a statement that the agreement was critical for long-term sustainability…

    Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said that the river is already close to a critical shortage and that the agreement helps all parties navigate the effects of climate change on the river’s future.

    From The Arizona Republic (Brandon Loomis):

    ‘A path of cooperation rather than conflict’

    The commission said officials from the two nations signed the agreement in a ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Wednesday. Under the deal, the U.S. government and Southwestern water users will invest up to $31.5 million in water delivery systems and farm efficiency upgrades south of the border.

    In exchange, Mexico will parcel out a portion of its river allotment to various U.S. water agencies over nine years and will reduce the risk of shortages for all of the Southwest by storing some of its water in Lake Mead near Las Vegas.

    “This agreement puts us on a path of cooperation rather than conflict as we work with Mexico to address the Colorado River Basin’s many challenges,” U.S. Commissioner Edward Drusina said in a statement.

    After the deal’s signing, he added that it’s “not necessarily the complete fix,” given the region’s long-term drought, but is a “monumental achievement in collaboration.”

    Water certainty during drought

    The deal “provides certainty for water operations in both countries,” Mexican Commissioner Roberto Salmon said, and allows Mexico to better plan its water use.

    A 2007 rule adopted by the states allows the federal government to restrict some of Arizona’s water whenever Lake Mead’s elevation drops below 1,075 feet above sea level to start a year.

    That reservoir had threatened to drop that low before a healthy snowfall in the Rocky Mountains last winter raised levels, but officials project there’s still about a 1-in-3 chance it could happen by 2019.

    Here’s the release from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Bob Muir/Armando Acuña):

    METROPOLITAN GENERAL MANAGER’S STATEMENT REGARDING BINATIONAL AGREEMENT ON COLORADO RIVER DELIVERIES, STORAGE

    Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issued the following statement regarding the conclusion of Minute 323, the new binational water agreement between the United States and Mexico addressing Mexico’s Colorado River deliveries and storage through 2026:

    “Today’s milestone continues the spirit of cooperation and collaboration forged among users of the Colorado River in both the United States and Mexico. This agreement carries on and augments the progress made under Minute 319 and recognizes that management of the Colorado River is most effective when the two countries jointly manage the river’s available resources.

    “Under the measures announced today, Metropolitan and the Imperial Irrigation District once again will join with agencies in Arizona and Nevada to provide critical funding for conservation projects in Mexico that will benefit both countries for the next decade. In exchange, the funding agencies will receive a portion of the water conserved that will be stored in Lake Mead to help meet future water supply needs, increase lake levels and help address long-term drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin.”

    Participants in the Minute 323 domestic-document signing ceremony in Santa Fe from the Basin States, the Department of Interior and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation join Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Bushatzke (seated, second from left). Photo credit Arizona Department of Water Resources.

    From the Arizona Department of Natural Resources:

    With an eye to long-term, binational cooperation and to managing a more stable Colorado River System, representatives of the United States, Mexico and the Colorado River Basin States of the U.S. on Wednesday celebrated the “entry into force” of an agreement deemed essential to the System’s future.

    The American signing, conducted at an “entry into force” ceremony in Santa Fe, N.M., applies the final flourish to the intensely negotiated agreement known as “Minute 323.”

    “The State of Arizona appreciates the efforts of the United States and Mexico to continue binational cooperation on long-term water management,” said Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

    Buschatzke participated in the Santa Fe ceremony and played a central role in the portions of the complex negotiations that were conducted among the U.S. Lower Basin participant-states.

    “This agreement provides substantial benefits to Arizona, particularly regarding opportunities for augmenting existing water supplies, which is a top priority for Governor Ducey,” he said.

    “In addition to the diligent efforts of the Commissioners, we’d also like to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of all the parties involved.”

    Graphic credit USGS.

    The implications of the agreement for helping stabilize and augment Arizona’s water supplies are significant.

    The “Minute” is an update to a 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty and is the successor update to Minute 319, which is set to expire in December 2017.

    Officially, Minute 323 is the “Extension of Cooperative Measures and Adoption of a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan in the Colorado River Basin.” It is an implementing agreement for the 1944 United States-Mexico Treaty on Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande.

    On the U.S. side, Minute 323 was negotiated among representatives of the U.S. International Boundary and Waters Commission (IBWC), the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and the seven Colorado River Basin States, including Arizona, which was represented by Director Buschatzke.
    The Minute 323 entry establishes a program of joint cooperative actions to improve Colorado River water management through 2026.

    Like Minute 319, the new Minute 323 provides for the U.S. and Mexico to share proportionately in Lower Basin shortage and surplus, and allows Mexico to create water savings in the Colorado River System in the U.S.

    Also like Minute 319, the updated agreement opens up opportunities for U.S. water users to fund conservation programs in Mexico, which in turn create “Intentionally Created Surplus,” or ICS, in Lake Mead, which benefits all of Lake Mead’s 35-million-plus water users in the Southwest.

    The new agreement’s most important features, many of which are carried over from Minute 319, include:

  • Allowing Mexico to defer delivery of a portion of its Colorado River allotment in the event of potential emergencies, such as earthquakes, or as a result of water conservation projects in Mexico.
  • This gives Mexico greater flexibility in how it manages its Colorado River allotment while also boosting Lake Mead elevation to the benefit of all users.
  • Providing additional Colorado River water to Mexico during certain high elevation reservoir conditions at Lake Mead when additional water is available to users in the United States.
  • Establishing a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan so that, should a Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan be put into effect in the United States, Mexico will also undertake water savings in parity with U.S. savings. The Minute stipulates that the savings will be recoverable when reservoir conditions improve.
  • Providing for U.S. investment in water infrastructure and environmental projects in Mexico – investments that provide initial water benefits to the U.S. agencies while generating water efficiencies for Mexico in the long term.
  • New features that are unique to Minute 323 include the extension to 2026; creation of the Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan; measures addressing salinity; measures addressing daily flow variability; and, providing water for the environment and funding for environmental monitoring and habitat restoration.

    Speaking on behalf of the Basin States, Director Buschatzke acknowledged the “trust and friendship we built as part of the process” during the signing ceremony in Santa Fe.

    “That same spirit of cooperation and collaboration served us well in the negotiations that led to Minute 319 and now in Minute 323.”

    Throughout much of the long negotiations, which straddled two U.S. presidential administrations, the Treaty’s update was known as “Minute 32x.” The execution and implementation of Minute 32x required a series of domestic agreements among the U.S., the IBWC, Reclamation, the Basin States, and U.S. water users.

    Nowhere in the U.S. were those negotiations more challenging than in Arizona, which – unique among the Basin States – required Director Buschatzke to seek the approval of the Arizona Legislature before he could agree to “forbear” portions of the State’s Colorado River allotment.

    The agreement allows Arizona water users to join users in California and Nevada in benefitting from the intentionally created surpluses generating from the water-savings projects the states fund in Mexico.

    On March 2, 2017, Governor Ducey signed House Joint Resolution 2002, authorizing the director of Water Resources to execute the forbearance agreement on the assumption it met certain conditions and that the final form of Minute 32x – now, Minute 323 – would not harm Arizona water users.

    In a letter to Arizona legislative leaders, the Director noted the establishment of a Binational Desalination Work Group, which will investigate desalination opportunities in the Sea of Cortez.

    Minute 323 creates opportunities to augment Arizona water supplies, including a binational desalination plant near the Sea of Cortez.

    “As you are aware,” wrote Buschatzke, “a binational desalination facility in the Sea of Cortez could be a critical component in Arizona’s long-term future water supplies.”

    From the Walton Family Foundation:

    The following statement is from Ted Kowalski, director of the Colorado River initiative at the Walton Family Foundation, in support of the U.S.-Mexico Colorado River agreement announced today:

    “This agreement is a home run for the long-term health of the Colorado River basin, the security of water for the future and the river environment in the United States and Mexico. The agreement also includes important incentives that encourage lower basin states to complete a drought contingency plan.”

    The Walton Family Foundation joined several other foundations in releasing a letter today pledging support for the implementation of the agreement. Ted Kowalski:

    “The philanthropic and nonprofit communities are eager to do their share to make sure the agreement is implemented and successful.”

    From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

    The agreement to be signed Wednesday calls for the U.S. to invest $31.5 million in conservation improvements in Mexico’s water infrastructure to reduce losses to leaks and other problems, according to officials of U.S. water districts who have seen summaries of the agreement.

    The water that the improvements save would be shared by users in both nations and by environmental restoration projects

    The deal also calls on Mexico to develop specific plans for reducing consumption if the river runs too low to supply everyone’s needs, said Bill Hasencamp of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water to about 19 million people in and around Los Angeles.

    Major river consumers in the U.S. would be required to agree on their own shortage plan before Mexico produces one, he said.

    The deal will extend a previous agreement that both countries would share the burden of water supply cutbacks if the river runs low, Hasencamp said.

    The International Boundary and Water Commission, which has members from both countries and oversees U.S.-Mexico treaties on borders and rivers, declined to release a copy of the agreement before Wednesday’s signing ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    Officials with the Mexican foreign ministry said in an email Tuesday they had no immediate comment, but U.S. officials who have been briefed on the details said the deal will help both sides.

    “It’s good news for both nations, for water users in the U.S. and Mexico,” said Chuck Collum of the Central Arizona Project, another Colorado River user that will help fund the infrastructure improvements in Mexico.

    The agreement provides more certainty in how the two countries will deal with the risk of a shortage and recognizes the danger the river faces, he said.

    “It’s an acknowledgement that the U.S. and Mexico both share risk due to a hotter and drier future,” Collum said.

    From InkStain (John Fleck):

    Sitting in an overcrowded hotel ballroom in Santa Fe, New Mexico, late yesterday afternoon, I was privileged to see that happen. In the midst of bellicose rhetoric about border walls and NAFTA trade battles, of “rapists” and “bad hombres”, representatives of the two nations’ border and water management community signed the final paperwork for the entry into force of a sweeping new Colorado River agreement.

    The deal extends the core terms of “Minute 319”, a landmark agreement between the U.S. and Mexico that enabled a rich new suite of collaborative measures to managing the shared river – Mexican storage of water in U.S. reservoirs, shared surpluses and shortages, opportunities for U.S. water agencies to collaborate with their Mexican counterparts on conservation measures and a shared effort to restore water to the Colorado River Delta environment.

    Two years of work by Obama administration folks and their Mexican counterparts had led to an near-agreement they came to call “Minute 32x” because of the quirks of the numbering system, but it didn’t quite get over the finish line before the change of administrations.

    Yesterday, despite the fears of many (including myself), we saw the agreement survive, as Petersen-Perlman put it, “conflict … being waged over other issues.” Here was the Trump administration’s new Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, standing at the podium before an international audience praising his predecessor, Obama administration Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Connor, who stood quietly leaning against the back wall.

    Connor and Estevan López, his Commissioner of Reclamation during the final years of the Obama administration, stood together. They two of them had led a determined push in the months after the election to try to get the deal done before the new administration took office, amid fears that a souring U.S.-Mexico relationship might make a Colorado River agreement impossible.

    Here’s the link to the final Minute 323 document.

    #ColoradoRiver: #Minute323 signing today, includes water for the environment #ActOnClimate #COriver

    The Colorado River is about 1,400 miles long and flows through seven U.S. states and into Mexico. The Upper Colorado River Basin supplies approximately 90 percent of the water for the entire basin. It originates as rain and snow in the Rocky and Wasatch mountains. Credit USGS.

    Here’s a report from Dan Elliott writing for the Associated Press. Click through to read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    The agreement to be signed Wednesday calls for the U.S. to invest $31.5 million in conservation improvements in Mexico’s water infrastructure to reduce losses to leaks and other problems, according to officials of U.S. water districts who have seen summaries of the agreement.

    The water that the improvements save would be shared by users in both nations and by environmental restoration projects

    The deal also calls on Mexico to develop specific plans for reducing consumption if the river runs too low to supply everyone’s needs, said Bill Hasencamp of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water to about 19 million people in and around Los Angeles.

    Major river consumers in the U.S. would be required to agree on their own shortage plan before Mexico produces one, he said.

    The deal will extend a previous agreement that both countries would share the burden of water supply cutbacks if the river runs low, Hasencamp said…

    The agreement provides more certainty in how the two countries will deal with the risk of a shortage and recognizes the danger the river faces, he said.

    “It’s an acknowledgement that the U.S. and Mexico both share risk due to a hotter and drier future,” [Chuck] Collum said…

    The deal being signed Wednesday, known as Minute 323, is an amendment to a 1944 U.S.-Mexico treaty that lays out how the two nations share the river. The treaty promises Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet (1.9 billion cubic meters) of water annually…

    The new agreement, which will be in force for nine years, does not include a repeat of the historic 2014 “pulse” that sent about 105,000 acre-feet (130 million cubic meters) of water surging into river’s delta in Mexico, the U.S. water officials said…

    But the agreement does include up to 210,000 acre-feet (260 million cubic meters) for environmental restoration projects, according to a briefing from Southern California’s Imperial Irrigation District, one of the funders of the Mexican infrastructure projects.

    Minute 323

    Your Water Colorado Blog

    Blue_Mesa_Reservoir Minute 323 provides a long-term plan for management of the Colorado River. Photo courtesy of Sascha Brück

    Water has been a source of conflict for more than 200 years in the West. The Colorado River delta had not seen water for about 20 years until the Pulse Flow, a release of 105,392 acre-feet of water from the Morelos Dam, boosted the Colorado River, allowing it to flow to Mexico’s Gulf of California and reach the ocean in March 2014. The Pulse Flow was released under Minute 319 of the 1944 treaty with Mexico.

    Minute 319 provides a water basin management approach focused on the sustainable use of the Colorado River, but it will expire on Dec. 31, 2017. Not to worry, Minute 323, set to be signed on September 26 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a continuation of this water basin management approach and provides a sustainable long term plan…

    View original post 554 more words

    Water managers seek certainty in Colorado Basin — @AspenJournalism

    The Colorado River, not far below the Utah-Colorado state line, flowing toward the lower basin.

    GRAND JUNCTION — Bringing more certainty to an unruly and unpredictable Colorado River system was a common theme among water managers speaking at the Colorado River District’s annual seminar Friday­­.

    Although the drought that has gripped much of the Colorado River Basin for the past 16 years has eased up a bit, population growth and the long dry spell have pushed the river’s supplies to the limit, with every drop of water in the system now accounted for.

    Meanwhile, the effects of climate change on the Colorado’s future flows are still a big question mark, and it could mean wide variability in the years to come, with periods of punishing drought followed by a sudden record-setting wet year, as California recently experienced.

    Bill Hasencamp, general manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, described how in April 2015, snowpack in the Sierras was at an all-time low. But by this spring, it was at an all-time high, after a winter of heavy precipitation.

    The change in snowpack eventually led to huge fluctuations in water prices – from $1,800 per acre-foot at the height of the drought to just $18 per acre-foot this year, Hasencamp said.

    That kind of turbulence places enormous pressure on the Colorado River Basin’s big municipalities, which must secure their water supplies for millions of people, said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the River District, which is based in Glenwood Springs and helps protect western Colorado’s water resources.

    Kuhn is retiring next year and was making his last formal presentation as general manager of the river district. As he heads into retirement, he’s working on a book with author John Fleck about the history of managing the Colorado River and the creation of the Colorado Compact.

    “The reality is — and we all have to accept this — big-city providers need certainty,” he said. However, Kuhn said he didn’t think that means more transmountain diversions from the Western Slope.

    The most obvious source of additional water for cities is agriculture, which holds the lion’s share of senior water rights on the Colorado River, but no one is eager to see rural areas sacrificed for urban growth, Kuhn said.

    So, he added, water managers throughout the basin are figuring out ways to adapt 19th-century water laws to a 21st-century reality.

    The upper Colorado River below the Pumphouse put-in.

    System conservation

    Cooperative agreements between irrigators and municipalities are one option, providing cities with additional sources of water during dry periods.

    Already, a three-year pilot initiative called the System Conservation Pilot Program has shown that farmers and ranchers are open to using less water in exchange for compensation.

    Beginning in 2014, four of the big Colorado River Basin municipalities and the Bureau of Reclamation contributed $15 million to fund water conservation projects throughout the basin.

    The program was in limbo after this year while officials worked out some issues, but Hasencamp said Friday that the funders have agreed to continue the pilot program for another year, in 2018.

    For water managers, these kinds of flexible arrangements, along with rigorous water efficiency, recycling, and reuse efforts, are the key to finding “certainty” on an inherently volatile river system.

    Still, those solutions will not be easy.

    As Bill Trampe, a longtime rancher from Gunnison County, explained, less irrigation often comes with unintended consequences such as diminished return flows to the river and nearby fields.

    And as Lurline Underbrink Curran, the former county manager for Grand County, described, efforts to heal the destructive impacts of existing water diversions on the Fraser River, a tributary of the Colorado, means accepting that future diversions will in fact take place.

    “We tried to form friendships that would help us do more with what we had,” she said.

    California’s Salton Sea presents another dilemma, which reaches back up into Colorado River system.

    The salty inland lake, created by an accidental breach in an irrigation canal, is drying up.

    Since 2002, the state of California has been paying the Imperial Valley Irrigation District to keep the Salton Sea on life support by delivering 800,000 acre-feet of water, but that initiative expires at the end of this year.

    Continuing the water deliveries means using up more of the Colorado River’s dwindling supplies, but letting it dry up means exposing local residents to a lakebed full of toxic dust.

    None of these problems is new, but as many of the speakers at the river district’s annual seminar explained, water managers now have more tools than ever before to address those challenges — and new urgency with which to apply them.

    Recent successes include the successful negotiation of an updated binational water agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, called Minute 232, that is expected to be signed this month. It will outline how the two countries share future shortages on the Colorado River.

    “We’re at a point where we can work together, and the success we’ve had is from collaboration,” said Becky Mitchell, the new director of the Colorado River Conservation Board. “It’s really all hands on deck.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Aspen Times, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water. The Post Independent published this story in its print edition on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The Aspen Times published it in its print edition on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The Vail Daily published it in its print edition on Sept. 18, as did the Summit Daily News.