I’ll let Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlin Touton explain this:
In the Colorado River Basin more conservation and demand management are needed in addition to the actions already underway. Between 2 and 4 million acre feet of additional conservation is needed just to protect critical elevations in 2023. (emphasis added)
That’s what Commissioner Touton said in a Congressional hearing today (her comments start around minute 32 in the video embedded here).
That is a stunning number. Last December, the basin leadership gathered on a Las Vegas stage at the Colorado River Water Users Association to roll out their “500+ plan.” That set a notional goal of 500,000 acre feet in conserved Lower Colorado River Basin water, and the Lower Basin states are having a hard time coming up with that. 2 million is a lot bigger than 500 thousand. 4 million is a lot bigger than 2 million.
In 2023, which is effectively now.
Touton gave the usual nod to collaborative engagement with states and tribes. But she also made a pointed threat:
It is in our authorities to act unilaterally to protect the system, and we will protect the system. (I added the emphasis, but listen for yourself. I think she did too.)