A group of four California water agencies announced on Wednesday an offer to the federal government to conserve 400,000 acre feet, or 130 billion gallons, of water annually from Lake Mead for the next four years.
The announcement from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Imperial Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District and Palo Verde Irrigation District due to the massive shrinkage of water coming from the Colorado River in recent years. Water flow is currently at 1/4th the normal average amount, with signs showing that further shrinkage could lead to less urban and agricultural water usage from the river, as well as possibly shutting down electrical generation at both the Hoover Dam on the Arizona and Nevada border, as well as the Glen Canyon Dam on the Arizona-Utah border.
“Given dire drought conditions across the region and dangerously low reservoir levels, we firmly believe that all water users within the Basin must take immediate voluntary actions to stabilize water supplies in the Basin’s major reservoirs,” the agencies said in a letter on Wednesday. “This water, which would otherwise be used by California’s communities and farms, will meaningfully contribute to stabilizing the Colorado River reservoir system.”
While the California cuts, paired with cuts made by Southwestern states are significant, many water experts have noted that the reductions aren’t enough to stave off further declines in the future.
“The fact that California is offering to voluntarily cut some water is encouraging,” Arizona State University water policy director Sarah Porter said on Thursday. “But 400,000 a year is not even 10% of California’s total allocation, and certainly not enough to save the Colorado River. It’s meaningful, but it won’t get us over the finish line at all. It’s a good step in the right direction, but it won’t be enough to get to the goal of 2 to 4 million acre-feet.”
“It’s hard to say just from this letter how real that 400,000 acre-feet is. You don’t open with your final offer.”
However, other water experts noted that while California should do more cuts, other Western states need to keep pace.
“Right now Southwestern states are missing deadlines and reductions not even close where they need to be,” explained California-based water control researcher Ramon Temple. “You have people growing cotton and alfalfa in the Arizona desert who are losing money but refusing to stop because they would lose water access. You have developers wanting to build resorts with surf pools in Coachella. You have people wanting to tear down the Glen Canyon Dam and return the area to how it was in the 1950s as a National Park. You have Native American tribes on the verge of losing their only power supply. We are at a crossroads.”
“The California reduction is good. It’s only about 10%, but it’s good. Other states need to carry their weight though and remember that California agriculture feeds a lot of the nation through the winter and that Californian cities have a lot more people. It’s not selfishness, but simply how things are. But even then a lot of things from those pools to farms pretty much up as spite as this point need to be reevaluated. Cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix have been growing like crazy, and the need to realize there are consequences for this. St. George, Utah, the nations fastest growing city, found this out the hard way and is now facing a critical water shortage. We’re all suffering, and we need to all do our part.”
As of Thursday, the Californian agencies have not given a second reduction offer.
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