In the Colorado River Basin, a slow start to the 2014-15 water year

We’re about 20 percent of the way into the fall-winter-spring snow accumulation season in the Colorado River Basin, and the current snowpack upstream of Lake Powell as estimated by the CBRFC is 61 percent of average: It is worth remembering, as the Bureau of Reclamation notes in its weekly water supply report (pdf), that “values …

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A Halloween treat: Lake Mead’s not quite as empty as we expected

I was wrong when I wrote in April┬áthat Lake Mead would continue to set “lowest ever for this point in the year” records for all of 2014. As I write this, with a few hours left in October, Mead’s surface elevation is 1,082.79 feet above seal level. That is more than five whole inches above …

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A Boulder Dam anniversary

Yesterday was the 78th anniversary of the first electric generator go into full operation at Boulder Dam. EDN has the story: Electricity from the dam’s powerhouse was originally sold pursuant to a 50-year contract, authorized by Congress in 1934, which ran from 1937 to 1987. In 1984, Congress passed a new statute which set power …

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Priority administration and Arizona’s Colorado River allotment

It’s generally more complicated than I think: A member of the Inkstain brain trust points out two catches in my “why can’t Phoenix just leave its unused apportionment in Lake Mead” post last week. The first has to do with Arizona’s application of the doctrine of prior appropriation with respect to its allocation of Colorado …

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So how are we going to build these western water markets?

Peter Culp, Robert Glennon and Gary Libecap have published an excellent new analysis of the potential for water markets to help us dig out of the western United States’ water mess: Water trading can facilitate the reallocation of water to meet the demands of changing economies and growing populations. It can play a vital role …

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Phoenix, Lake Mead and “the anticommons”

Here’s a good example of why fixing the west’s water problems is going to be so difficult. Phoenix wants to do something really simple. It currently has more Colorado River water than it needs, and it would like to just leave its unused apportionment in Lake Mead. This seems like a no-brainer – Phoenix gets …

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Mead, Powell monthly data update

It is no surprise that Lake Mead ended the “water year” Sept. 30 at the lowest level it’s been since the government began filling it in the 1930s. Perhaps more importantly, combined storage in the two big reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, ended the water year at its lowest level since 1968, when they …

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The newest Colorado River management widget: the “System Conservation Program”

tl;dr The new Colorado River conservation program may not conserve a whole lot of water. But growing the “civic community” needed to solve the basin’s water problems may be far more important. Longer Version: The Colorado River Pilot System Water Conservation Program crept forward last week, in the process demonstrating an endearing quirk of Colorado …

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Coachella: More California drought resilience

In the latest episode of “whos’ not running out of water in California?” we join Ian James for a visit to the Coachella Valley: [V]ast amounts of water are still flowing as usual to the farms of the Coachella Valley, soaking into the soil to produce lemons and tangelos, grapes, and vegetables from carrots to …

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Gordon Jacoby and the Colorado River: “predicting hydrologic bankruptcy”

In my world, the 1976 tree ring analysis of the Colorado River’s long term flow done by Charles Stockton and Gordon Jacoby stands as one of the great works of policy-relevant science. But by the time I came on the scene, “Stockton and Jacoby”* (pdf) was just a marker, a signpost along our path to …

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