Touton: On the Colorado River, we need to cut an additional 2 to 4 million acre feet of use. Now.

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.)



  1. Equally eye-opening is the remark: ” the Bureau of Reclamation has the authority “act unilaterally to protect the system, and we will protect the system.” Are we heading down the path of Federal intervention and what will it look like in terms of state and tribal allocations and is there any other way out of this over the next 60 days?

  2. The Upper Basin made a bad bargain one hundred years ago that they thought would pay off for them with a surplus in the river – percent of water versus firm number. Bad bets can go very wrong. Perhaps the Lower Basin states will be willing to forgive them that political decision? While with family in Arvada, CO, recently, an area that to my knowledge gets Colorado River water, they did not know they get CO River water. Apparently, neither did their neighbors. Very lush, verdant area. Their neighbor was putting in a new lawn.

  3. It looks like to me that Reclamation considers power generation to be prime function over everything else and “protecting” that $ source for their continued funding of various projects is key.

    Follow the $…

  4. 2maf of evaporation, hmm, the lowest hanging fruit from that would be to get it distributed to everyone else to store in the ground each year instead of leaving it in the reservoirs to keep evaporating away.

  5. And, yet, new residents keep flocking to these Colorado River-dependent areas. The growth machine is still hard at work – more diligent than the conservation machine, apparently!

  6. Pingback: At this point, a voluntary “2 to 4 million acre feet of additional conservation” Colorado River deal by Aug. 16 seems out of reach – jfleck at inkstain

  7. Pingback: Dead Pool Diaries: Colorado River 2022 Year in Review - jfleck at inkstain

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