The 2018 Lower Basin accounting report is out, and if you’re interested in understanding what’s happening on the Colorado River, it’s a gold mine. Did you know, for example, that California’s annual Colorado River water use is down 21 percent from its peak in 2002? Or that the Gila Monster Farms on the Arizona side of the river used 4,536 acre feet of water in 2018, up from 4,197 acre feet last year? (I am not making this up, there really is a Gila Monster Farms, read this report and you will be a hit at parties.)
In all seriousness, there’s some fascinating detail on the river’s operations in the report, a requirement of Article V of the Consolidated Decree of the United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. California,547 U.S. 150 (2006).
It is where you will learn, for example, that
- Las Vegas is so flush with water that it has now banked 613,596 acre feet of water in aquifers in Arizona and another 330,225 acre feet similarly in California.
- The states of the Lower Basin have banked 1.742 million acre feet of “intentionally created surplus” water (yes, we call it “ICS”) in Lake Mead since the option to do so was created in 2007.
- We “bypassed” 122,569 acre feet of water into Mexico via the Welton-Mohawk drain, water too salty to leave in the river, but which is plenty nice to feed the Cienega de Santa Clara wetland.