Friday, March 22, 2019

Seven States Sign Deal in Effort to Avert Water Crisis Along Colorado River : New York Times by John Schwartz

Constant coverage on the Colorado River has emphasized the threat of its inability to supply water to states designated for an allotment in the Colorado River Compact and the other agreements that form the Law of the River. According to the Colorado River Compact of 1922, seven states--divided into the upper basin and the lower basin--would receive a share of the river's waters.  This New York Times article explained an agreement reached on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 by the seven states. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming constitute the upper basin states and Arizona, California, and Nevada, the lower basin.

To avoid a federal mandate and urged by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), a federal agency, the seven states wrote a drought contingency plan that they submitted to Congress. "Brenda W. Burman, commissioner of the Bureau Of Reclamation, the federal agency that oversees the river, pressured states and their water agencies to make a deal." The relationship between the federal government and the states results from the role each plays regarding the Colorado River: "the federal government regulates the water, the states own the rights to it."

Having experienced a 19-year drought and the possibility of a dry future with climate change, the group agreed collectively to curtail their use of water.  The primary objector to the agreement, the Imperial Irrigation District, relies most heavily on the river compared to other users in California. During the negotiations, Imperial proposed that it ask the federal government for $200 million to restore Salton Sea, the largest lake in California.  Salton Sea gets its water from return flows that have decreased due to the reduction of water use by farmers.   As the Salton Sea dries up, the dust blows, causing respiratory problems to local residents. Despite the offer of the six other states to "cover Imperial's share of water cuts without requiring that flows to the Salton Sea be reduced." California representatives to the agreement stated the agreement "may mean getting it done, but not getting it right."

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