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Why The Lower Basin Water Cutbacks Won’t Fix The Problem on the Colorado River

Big News coming out of the Lower Colorado River Basin this week whereby Arizona, California, and Nevada are negotiating a deal to keep water in Lake Mead. This deal would pre-empt water shortage declarations and let all three ‘share the pain’ in a 56f1f7b8091fa.imagedifferent way than the official 2007 guidelines required.

  1. Tony Davis from the AZ Daily Star reports the repercussions for AZ: http://tucson.com/news/local/big-cap-cuts-coming-as–state-water-agreement-nears/article_876e3aa6-6cf0-53ec-bd0c-95be8c6468ae.html
  2. Ian James from The Desert Sun follows up with the CA angle: http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2016/04/26/california-weighs-sharing-pain-colorado-river-cuts/83510014/

Note from the AZ Star article:  “Arizona would lose 192,000 of its 1.5 million acre-foot Central Arizona Project supply starting next year.”

If we connect these dots back upstream to the Upper Basin — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, where the water all comes from — there’s another angle on this story that has received less attention. At the same time that the Lower Basin is sharing the pain, the gross-1234Upper Basin is proposing to take more water out of the river that would overwhelm the cutbacks in AZ, CA, and NV.

  1. Alex Burness from the Boulder Daily Camera reports — Denver Water’s proposed “Moffat Collection System Project” would take around 15,000 acre feet out of the Colorado River. The Army Corps is expected to issue a final Record of Decision in the next 6 months: http://www.dailycamera.com/news/ci_29726160/activists-continue-effort-in-boulder-to-block-gross-reservoir-expansion
  2. Bruce Finley from the Denver Post reports — Northern Colorado Water’s Windy Gap Firming Project would take around 30,000 acre feet out of the Colorado River. The Army Corps is expected to issue a final Record of Decision in the next 6 months: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_29763004/hickenlooper-backs-windy-gap-water-orders-final-permit
  3. Kevin Fixler from the Summit Daily reports — The State of Utah initiated the permitting process for the Lake Powell pipeline in December 2015 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which could take 2 years. The project proposes to take out 86,000 acre feet out of the Colorado River: http://www.summitdaily.com/news/21067181-113/despite-state-water-plan-local-headwaters-have-growing
  4. Eric Galatas from Public News Service reports — The State of Wyoming is proposing the Fontenelle Dam re-engineering with the Bureau of Reclamation that would take 125,000 acre feet out of the Green River which flows into the Colorado: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2016-03-22/environment/wyoming-among-states-advancing-claims-on-colorado-river/a50955-1

Let’s do the math of the potential new diversion in the Upper Basin:

  • Moffat Collection System Project = 15,000 acre feet
  • Windy Gap Firming Project = 30,000 acre feet
  • Lake Powell Pipeline = 86,000 acre feet
  • Fontenelle Dam re-engineering = 125,000 acre feet
  • TOTAL: 256,000 acre feet

In short: the potential agreement for cutbacks in the first year in Arizona (192,000 acre feet) in the Lower Basin would be completely negated by the potential new diversions in the Upper Basin (256,000 acre feet).

Let’s ask this: Why in the world would the federal government (Army Corps, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Bureau of Reclamation) permit a new project in the Upper Basin when this Zero Sum Game is happening?

That’s why Save The Colorado’s policy is “No New Dams And Diversions.”

Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado

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