River Beat: Conservation before shortage?

Shaun McKinnon reports this morning on a very interesting proposal under discussion in Arizona:

Under a plan now being considered, water officials would pass up billions of gallons that they could take from the river in 2011, hoping to keep the drought-stricken reservoir full enough to avoid triggering automatic cutbacks. Any cutbacks could deny Arizona and Nevada even more water in 2012.

The sacrifice would be relatively small – 80,000 acre-feet out of Arizona’s annual share of 2.8 million acre-feet – and it would barely be missed. Officials would take all of it from a portion of the water set aside for underground water storage, leaving consumers, cities and farmers unaffected.

Still, the attempt to prop up Lake Mead’s supply underscores how times have changed for a state that worked so hard for so many years to take every drop of river water it could.