It’s apparently Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan week! Documents here. This is when we all gather around and try to make sense of the sweeping effort to ratchet up efforts to reduce Colorado River water use to keep the system from crashing.
The plan you see before you is really not that different, at the interstate level, from what was essentially agreed to nearly three years ago – Arizona and Nevada agree to bigger reduction in their Colorado River supplies earlier, based on the elevation of Lake Mead. If Mead drops far enough, California joins the party, where by “party” I mean “sees its Colorado River supplies cut as well”. So this is one of those parties you really don’t want to go to, because you’re super introverted, but….
The most interesting bit now seems to be the halting progress toward a new set of rules that allows the states of the Upper Colorado River Basin – Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico – to create a conservation storage pool in Lake Powell. One of the sticking points in planning for water reductions up here (in the Upper Basin) is that if we conserve water and prop up Lake Powell in the process, under the current rules, we risk simply increasing the release to Lake Mead. We risk losing a chunk of the water we conserve.
The idea under DCP would be to create a separate accounting category in Powell for conserved water that’s “invisible” (the word people have been using) to the Powell->Mead water sharing rules. The details here are hairy, in terms of ensuring that conservation is really happening and accounting for it in a way that’s transparent and agreeable to the states of the Lower Basin.
But the fact that we seem to be getting something of this sort, or at least an agreement on the general outline of how it might work, is a big deal.