Deadline looms for Colorado River plan to save reservoirs

Hoover Dam
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Recent rains have raised the water level in Lake MeadOpens in a new tab. by three inches, but that’s not nearly enough to save the system.

At a June 14 hearing before the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, the Bureau of Reclamation recommended cutting 2-4 million acre-feet of water deliveries next year to save Lake Mead and Lake Powell, where the water levels are so low that hydropower production is threatened.  The Bureau gave the seven states that are part of the Colorado River compact 60 days to produce a plan to conserve water in the system; otherwise, it would take unilateral action.

The Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming sent a letter outlining their plan on July 18.   The plan discusses a 5-point approach to water management and reduced usage in the upper states. “The Upper Division States recognize that bringing the system into balance will require collaboration and efforts from all Basin States and water use sectors,” the Upper Colorado River Commission wroteOpens in a new tab..  “Accordingly, we stand ready to participate in and support efforts, across the Basin, to address the continuing dry hydrology and depleted storage conditions. However, the options the Upper Division States have available to protect critical reservoir elevations are limited. The Upper Basin is naturally limited to the shrinking supply of the river, and previous drought response actions are depleting upstream storage by 661,000 acre-feet. Our water users already suffer chronic shortages under current conditions resulting in uncompensated priority administration, which includes cuts to numerous present perfected rights in each of our states.”

As of this writing, a plan from the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and NevadaOpens in a new tab. is not posted on the Bureau of Reclamation’s website.

The July 25 weekly report from the Bureau of Reclamation showed that Lake Mead and Lake Powell were both at 27% capacityOpens in a new tab..

Image Source: Hoover Dam, Bureau of ReclamationOpens in a new tab..






Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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