Scaling back, even more, in the Lower Colorado River Basin

With the ink barely dry on the ill-named Colorado River “Drought Contingency Plan”, the Lower Basin states (Nevada, Arizona, and California) are already cooking up a Plan C for even deeper reductions. Joanna Allhands at the Arizona Republic has a nice look at what we know about the details:

Arizona, California and Nevada are moving forward with a plan to save another 500,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead annually until 2026.

We’re talking 500,000 acre-feet over and above the mandatory cuts that are spelled out in the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). Each year. For five years.

Just to keep the lake from tanking.

Allhands does a nice job of going past the sketchy details made public in a webinar last week, but the sketchiness of the details is in part the deal itself, rather than what we know about the detail. We’re repairing the locomotive here in real time while it’s moving down the track.

Expect the federal government to kick some money to fund the water use reductions, along with the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the state of Arizona, the Central Arizona Project, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Importantly, you can expect MWD – California – to kick in water. Details are still being worked out, but the participants were confidence enough to go public with what they’ve got.

We’ll learn more as the various agency boards begin taking up their parts of the deal in coming weeks.

I’m curious when we might see some sort of similar initiative on the part of the states of the Upper Colorado River Basin.


  1. Lake Mead is declining despite annual releases from Lake Powell averaging 8.8 million acre-feet since 2007, plus Arizona’s annual consumption of almost 2 million acre-feet of tributary water. The problem should be solved by those who caused it. (Hint: It was the Lower Basin.)

    By comparison, the Upper Basin consumes about 4 million acre-feet per year (well below its Compact apportionment) and takes shortages every year – which will increase as the climate warms. Why should the Upper Basin cut back to support overuse in the Lower Basin? “Initiative” indeed!

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