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Utah files notice of claim for Gold King Mine spill

Clean Water ACT - EPA, Colorado River or Colorado, CORRUPTION, Dams other than Klamath, Federal gov & land grabs, State gov

St. George News, Utah

SALT LAKE CITY Feb. 12, 2016 – As the investigation into the Gold King Mine spill continues, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes will file notice of claim against the federal government for its role in the disaster.

Recently, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) discovered that water sample results taken by the Environmental Protection Agency in late 2015 after the spill showed elevated levels of metals. The results had not previously been shared with the state of Utah. Reyes said:

From the beginning we have evaluated Utah’s legal options to ensure the EPA lives up to its promise to be fully accountable and transparent – and to make our citizens and environment whole. After the spill, we waited to take legal action because in good faith we hoped that cooperation with the EPA could bring more rapid reimbursement and remediation.  Perhaps there is a still a chance for that to happen, but Utah needs to be in a position to file a lawsuit if the federal government is not more responsive and transparent.  The discovery that the EPA did not share relevant information is a cause for serious concern and could lead to additional claims after we have fully investigated that omission.

The action will put all parties on notice that Utah intends to sue the federal government under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act and begins the litigation process.

“It’s critical that we ensure that the EPA, and any other potentially liable entities, are held legally responsible,” Reyes said, “not just for short term effects but for damage that may not be known or understood for years to come.”

Upon notice of the disaster, a team of lawyers from the Office of the Utah Attorney General lent support to the vitally important actions of its clients including the state’s departments of Environmental Quality and Public Safety – and their divisions of Water Quality and Emergency Management. These agencies began immediate monitoring of impacts to Utah’s waters and evaluating short and long-term health, environmental and recreational impacts to Utah citizens and tribal nations along the San Juan River.

Utah files notice of claim for Gold King Mine spill

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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Colorado mine owner: EPA lied in congressional hearing

Clean Water ACT - EPA, Colorado River or Colorado, CORRUPTION, CRIMINAL, Federal gov & land grabs

Colorado mine owner: EPA lied in congressional hearing

Colorado Watchdog.org

By   /   September 9, 2015

An Environmental Protection Agency official lied during a congressional hearing Wednesday when he said the agency responded to a Gold King Mine “cave-in” when in fact EPA contractors created the disaster by barricading the mine last summer, the owner of the mine has charged.

“This was a result of cave-ins and water buildup. That’s why we were there at the time,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. His boss, Administrator Gina McCarthy, did not attend the first congressional hearing into the Animas River Spill, held by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Although Stanislaus was grilled on other issues such as transparency and double standards pertaining to non-government spills, none of the representatives drilled into Stanislaus’ claim that the Colorado spill was a result of natural forces.

But his comments weren’t lost on Todd Hennis, Gold King’s owner.

“It’s absolute baloney of the worst sort,” Hennis said immediately after the hearing. “They blocked off the flow of water out of the drain pipes and they created the huge wall of water in the Gold King by their actions last year.”

RELATED: EPA withholds mine spill documents from Congress

One thing isn’t in dispute: EPA contractors punched a hole in the top of the walled-up Gold King mine on Aug. 5, sending 3 million gallons of water into the Animas River, part of the Colorado River system that sustains much of the American Southwest. The waterway from Colorado to New Mexico turned bright orange.

Hennis told Watchdog last month the EPA dumped 15 tons of hazardous waste into another mine he owned in 2005 and then walled up the Gold King last summer as a means to control water runoff.

He provided a photo to Watchdog showing a wide-open mine with a small stream of clear-colored water running out. Another photo from an EPA report shows a photo taken in 2014 after the mine had been closed off.

“It shows there was no flow of water coming out,” Hennis said. “They are calling it an act of God when it was an act of government. The photos clearly show the EPA backfilled the portal to block water from coming out and they blocked the discharge pipes at the same time.”

Blocking the mine’s natural drainage triggered the catastrophe, Henning told Watchdog.

An EPA fact sheet also maintains that, “While excavating above the old (mine entrance), pressurized water began leaking above the mine tunnel, spilling about three million gallons of water stored behind the collapsed material into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.”

Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, asked whether contractor Environmental Restoration — a go-to EPA contractor — was qualified for the job.

“We’re not sure how much design engineering was done on this project or if the people were qualified to do this,” Westerman said. “Obviously (there was) a lack of planning that went into this because of the spill that occurred.”

Reps. Gary Palmer, R-Alabama; Barry Loudermilk, R-Georgia; and Lamar Smith, R-Texas, blasted the EPA for creating witch hunts on offending companies and individuals, while engaging in a lax attitude when the agency is at fault.

Loudermilk recalled the 2010 BP Oil spill and an appearance by President Obama on the “Today Show,” demanding the firing of BP Chairman Tony Hayward.

“Do you think we should have the same standards for Gina McCarthy?” Loudermilk asked. “Should we have called for her to be fired if definitely the EPA was responsible for the spill?”

http://watchdog.org/237424/epa-hearing/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=watchdognewsletter_37

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How the EPA managed to spill 3 million gallons of mining waste into a Colorado river

Clean Water ACT - EPA, Colorado River or Colorado, Federal gov & land grabs

PNP comment: This federal agency is out-of-control and needs to be eliminated. — Editor Liz Bowen

VOX.com

Back in June, the Environmental Protection Agency had begun work to plug the abandoned Red and Bonita mine near Silverton, Colorado, that had been draining toxic heavy metals into the Animas River for years.

Then everything went horribly, horribly wrong.

On August 4, EPA workers were clearing out the nearby Gold King mine, closed since 1923, when they breached a debris dam that had been holding back a massive amount of water laced with arsenic, lead, and other toxins.

All that contaminated water gushed out, unstoppably, coursing down the mountains and turning the Animas River a sickening shade of yellow:

Over a million gallons of mine wastewater has made it's way into the Animas River.

Over a million gallons of mine wastewater has made it’s way into the Animas River, closing the river and putting the city of Durango on alert. (Brent Lewis/The Denver Post/Getty Images)

At first, the EPA said that about 1 million gallons of wastewater had been released. Then, on an August 9 press call, officials said they’d taken fresh measurements and actually 3 million gallons had spilled out — about five Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth.

Officials have warned people in the region to avoid contact with the river as the contaminated water surges through. The EPA is also warning people with wells in nearby floodplains to have their water tested before drinking or bathing. Both the nearby city of Durango and La Plata County in Colorado have declared states of emergencies, as has the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management.

This whole disaster raises a couple of big questions: Why was the EPA messing around with abandoned mines in this area? And how did the agency manage to trigger such a massive spill? To understand this story, we have to walk back through the legacy of mining in Colorado, which is still creating grisly environmental problems to this day.

Colorado has hundreds of old mines still leaking toxins

Starting in the 1870s, miners have rushed to the Silverton region to seek out gold, silver, and other valuable resources. But as Stephanie Ogburn at KUNC and Jonathan Thompson at High Country News recount in excellent pieces, that mining boom left behind a serious mess.

There were two major environmental problems associated with mining. First, up until the 1930s or so, miners often just dumped their tailings — waste material that frequently contained toxic heavy metals — into nearby streams and rivers. Around Silverton, heavy metals accumulated in the riverbeds of the Upper Animas River, and their effects lingered for decades. For many years, fish couldn’t survive in these waters.

Second, as miners dug and blasted shafts, they’d typically hit groundwater, which would begin flowing through fractures in the rock. As that water mixed with air and sulfides, it would react to form sulfuric acid. That acidic wash, in turn, dissolved and picked up various heavy metals in the ground — like zinc, arsenic, lead, and copper. These toxic streams of water are known as “acid mine drainage,” and they’re still a problem to this day, flowing out of mines and into nearby streams.

The last mine near Silverton closed in 1991. But there are still more than 400 abandoned mines in the region, and many continue to fill up with toxin-laced water that then leaches out into rivers and streams. And cleaning up these old mines has been a gruesome challenge for decades.

The state has struggled to clean up these old mines — and EPA recently stepped in

READ more:

http://www.vox.com/2015/8/10/9126853/epa-mine-spill-animas

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Weld County, Colorado, approves Resolution asking the voters the question to pursue the creation of a 51st State

Colorado River or Colorado

RESOLUTION

RE:      REFERRAL TO WELD COUNTY ELECTORS AT THE COUNTY ELECTION TO BE HELD ON NOVEMBER 5, 2013, THE QUESTION OF WHETHER TO PURSUE THE CREATION OF A 51ST STATE

            WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners of Weld County, Colorado, pursuant to Colorado statute and the Weld County Home Rule Charter, is vested with the authority of administering the affairs of Weld County, Colorado, and

            WHEREAS, Section 15-4 of the Weld County Home Rule Charter authorizes the Board, by Resolution, to submit a ballot question to the registered voters of Weld County in the form of a referendum, and

            WHEREAS, the Board has been in communication with commissioners of at least nine other Colorado counties who, in concert with the Board, have discussed the creation of a 51st state, and

WHEREAS, in late July, 2013, the Board held four meetings in Weld County to discuss the concept of creating a 51st state, and

WHEREAS, in all four meetings, citizens asked the Board to put the matter to a countywide vote of registered voters at the November 5, 2013, election, and

WHEREAS, being the “Governing Body” of Weld County, as that term is defined in C.R.S. § 1-1-104(18), and pursuant to said Charter Section 15-4, the Board desires to call for a Weld County election on November 5, 2013, for registered electors of Weld County to consider the following question:

QUESTION:

Shall the Board of County Commissioners of Weld County, in concert with the county commissioners of other Colorado counties, pursue those counties becoming the 51st state of the United States of America?

            WHEREAS, that each registered voter at the election and desirous of voting may cast a vote of either “Yes” or “No” to said question.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of County Commissioners of Weld County, Colorado, that the Board hereby call for a Weld County election on November 5, 2013, for registered electors of Weld County to consider the following question:

QUESTION:

Shall the Board of County Commissioners of Weld County, in concert with the county commissioners of other Colorado counties, pursue those counties becoming the 51st state of the United States of America?

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the Board that each registered voter at the election and desirous of voting may cast a vote of either “Yes” or “No” to said question.

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the Board that the Clerk to the Board shall publish notice of the election, along with the full text of the above-stated question, within 30 days of this Resolution in the legal newspaper for Weld County.

            The above and foregoing Resolution was, on motion duly made and seconded, adopted by the following vote on the 19th day of August, A.D., 2013.

                                                                              BOARD OFCOUNTYCOMMISSIONERS

                                                                             WELD COUNTY,COLORADO

ATTEST:

                                                                              William F. Garcia, Chair

WeldCountyClerkto the Board

                                                                             Douglas Rademacher, Pro-Tem

BY:

        Deputy Clerk to the Board

                                                                              Sean P. Conway

APPROVED AS TO FORM:

                                                                              Mike Freeman

       CountyAttorney

                                                                              Barbara Kirkmeyer

Date of signature:

 

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The fight for water: Here’s why the West’s oldest battle could hit you at the tap

Bureau of Land Management, California water, Colorado River or Colorado, Dams other than Klamath, Federal gov & land grabs, Water, Resources & Quality

PNP comment: The West is not running out of water — statements that are incorrectly made. A simple solution to drought years is to build more reservoirs and get better at recycling. If we can put a man on the moon, this is not out of our capability. — Editor Liz Bowen

Aerial photo of goosenecks on the Colorado River above Cataract Canyon in southern Utah, July 28, 2008.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

By Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 12 2012 1:00 p.m. MDT

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series on the impacts of the West’s shrinking water supply and the costly battle to find solutions.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The West is running out of water.

Its lifeblood, the Colorado River, is being hemorrhaged by cities, by farms and ranches, by power plants and by the more than 30 million people who depend on its water in the United States and another 6 million people in Mexico.

This year’s flows are near historic lows with runoff about a third of average, pushing the seven states that share the river toward another year of drought. But those stresses are trumped by dire predictions from the agency managing the Colorado River system, forecasting demand far outstripping supply during the next 50 years, reaching crisis levels within two decades.

It reveals a coming tug-of-war over water resources that may pit Utah against other states in the fight for new development, jobs, housing and force an answer to one of the West’s most enduring questions: Who is entitled to the water?

The answer will determine just how much it will cost you to turn on your tap at home or what type of lawn or garden you can have. And the answer is hidden within an expansive, multibillion-dollar effort being waged to keep the river flowing.

“There are no innocent parties,” said Nevada’s Pat Mulroy, who manages a water-delivery system for more than two thirds of her state’s residents. “No one on the river has the luxury of doing nothing.”

The reason? Colorado River flows are shrinking.

Dealing with drought

Even before drought gripped the river system beginning in 2000, a nearly three-decade look at data shows the combination of water use and loss in the Colorado River increased 23 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Think of it as a 23 percent increase in stress on the river system.

The bureau is shepherding a supply-demand study to be released in July that says residents of Utah and the other six basin states should expect droughts lasting five years or more 40 percent of the time over the next 50 years.

A warmer, more volatile climate will mean a drier Colorado River basin overall, with more water lost from the ground through evaporation and transpiration by plants; less snowfall; but more rainfall, which behaves differently in terms of shaping water supply.

Read more:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865555684/The-fight-for-water-Heres-why-the-Wests-oldest-battle-could-hit-you-at-the-tap.html

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Colorado rivers, streams may get boost from lease of water rights

Colorado River or Colorado, Water rights

Posted:   04/26/2012 01:00:00 AM MDT
Updated:   04/26/2012 12:10:34 PM MDT

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

Looming drought has prompted a new push to prevent harm to streams and rivers: temporarily leasing water normally diverted to household taps, farms and ranchland and letting the water flow.

State water authorities and private conservation groups say deals to ensure sufficient water in streams and rivers will mean the difference between life and death for fish, bugs, wild animals and riparian vegetation.

But Colorado agricultural leaders this week warned that — with mountain snowpack 39 percent of average — spare water for environmental purposes will be hard to find.

Drought worries have intensified. Denver Water on Wednesday issued “Stage 1 drought” measures, asking 1.3 million customers to voluntarily limit watering on lawns.

While reservoirs are at normal levels, “the conditions we’re seeing are similar to those in the 2002 drought. Reservoir levels can drop very quickly without much rain and snow,” utility spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said.

The Colorado Water Trust this week issued a notice seeking people interested in the voluntary leases. Trust leaders have been working on protecting tributaries to the Colorado, Eagle, Fraser and Gunnison rivers and may be able to devote as much as $400,000 to fund leases. The Nature Conservancy also is exploring possibilities on the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins and the Dolores River down from McPhee Reservoir in western Colorado.

“This is not about taking water away from people. This is about keeping our rivers whole — and sharing water between people and the environment,” said Nature Conservancy state director Tim Sullivan.

“There are values associated with the flows in rivers — recreation, riparian benefits, water quality” — not fully captured in Colorado’s prior appropriation use-it-or-lose-it system of allocating water, Sullivan said. “Drying up rivers is not a good way for us to manage our water in the West.”

During the severe 2002 drought, some streams and rivers were so warm and depleted that state wildlife crews trudged with buckets to rescue fish from isolated pools.

State agencies have been working since 1973 to ensure minimum “in-stream flows” to prevent irreversible environmental degradation. The Colorado Water Conservation Board, working through state water courts, has established minimum flows — from half a cubic foot per second to 300 cfs — on 1,581 segments of rivers and streams covering 9,120 miles.

Private-sector funding could boost the government efforts.

“We appreciate the help for our partners and think this can result in additional protection this year,” said Linda Bassi, the CWCB’s chief for in-stream flow. “This is something that potentially could do a lot.”

The new approach relies on a 2003 law that lets water-rights holders loan water temporarily — without going through court. The law hasn’t been tapped until now.

Lease deals to prevent dry-ups this summer would pay people entitled to water from rivers not to use it for up to 120 days.

“We’re asking them to just grow a different crop this year — a crop of water for fish and habitat for fish,” said Amy Beatie, director of the Colorado Trust. “Rivers benefit. And they get cash.”

Trust officials calculate that $400,000 in donations could fund leases to guarantee flows of 41 cfs around the state, Beatie said.

But commodity prices — for corn, wheat and cattle — remain relatively robust, with development devouring more Colorado farmland and pastures. That means excess water may be scarce.

“Hopefully, we’d have enough people wanting to do this to make it worthwhile. We have to think about food production as well,” Colorado Farm Bureau vice president Troy Bredenkamp said. “It’s going to be a challenge with commodity prices where they are and the lack of water.”

Winter Park Ranch homeowners along the Fraser River have expressed interest. Their 1,500-home subdivision has surplus water currently used to flood a field where horses and cows sometimes graze, said Kirk Klancke, manager of the development’s sewage and sanitation operations.

Closing headgates to keep water in the Fraser River would help dilute sewage to meet state discharge standards, Klancke said.

“We want to do an in-stream flow lease so we can leave those headgates closed, leave that water in the Fraser River. We’re talking a couple cfs,” he said.

Along the Colorado River at Dotsero, “we actually have more than we use. That’s why we still flood some of our property,” said Karl Berger, 55, who grows alfalfa and responded to the Colorado Trust initiative.

“I don’t think I’d recapture all my income. I need to figure labor costs from flooding — guys moving the ditches. Then I have to weigh the benefits of returning that water to the river,” said Berger, an avid fisherman who hosts an annual tournament. “I’d rather put it in the river.”

Bruce Finley: 303-954-1700, bfinley@denverpost.com or twitter.com/finleybruce

Read more: Colorado rivers, streams may get boost from lease of water rights – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_20482181/colorado-rivers-streams-may-get-boost-from-lease#ixzz1tGTXn1qi
Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

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California Water Wars: Nevada Didn’t Grab Enough

Agriculture - California, California Rivers, California water, Colorado River or Colorado, Dams other than Klamath

 

Independent Voter Network

Unfiltered Political News by Independent Contributors

PNP comment: Interesting info on Colorado River, etc. — Editor Liz Bowen


Article should take about 2 – 4 minutes to read.

Image Lake Mead bathtub ring 2010. (Credit: commons.wikimedia.org)

What, you ask, does Nevada and Las Vegas have to do with California water?  Well, water wars aren’t just fought within states. They are also fought between states. Southern Nevada gets almost 90% of its water from the Colorado River. Southern California also gets substantial water from the Colorado, most of which goes to agriculture in the Imperial Valley. The Colorado River has the unenviable status of being the most litigated river in the world. The problem for Nevada is that it agreed to a small apportionment of Colorado River water back when their population was tiny. Southern Nevada gets 0.3 Million Acre Feet a Year (MAFY) while California gets a princely 4.4 MAFY.

But then gambling came to Las Vegas in a big way. The population soared. They now have persistent water problems, made worse by a decade of drought. Thus, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is on a mission to find water anywhere it can.

Nevada’s crown jewel is the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River at Lake Mead. They get one-third of the power generated by it. But water levels at Lake Mead have dropped so precipitously that a “third straw” is needed to insure that water will be available. It will cost $800 million and no one is quite sure where the money will come from. In addition, SNWA has floated plans to build pipelines from northern Nevada and Utah, something which has met with vociferous opposition. They’ve also discussed building desalination plants in California or Mexico and swapping that for more water from the Colorado River.

Under The Law of The River which governs the Colorado, California, Nevada, and Arizona are allowed to use any Colorado River water not used by another state. But given the drought and growing populations, all three states are using their full allotments. This means no excess water for the other states.

SNWA is not currently a direct competitor with California for water due to the ancient agreement apportioning Colorado River water. Should that agreement ever change – and everyone know it is archaic – then SNWA could directly compete for more Colorado River water. However, SNWA is relentless in seeking more water and through swaps, desalination, and other agreements and is always looking to get more water from the Colorado. If they get more, someone else gets less. That is the real Law of The River.

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Governor targets need for more water storage on Colorado River

Colorado River or Colorado

PNP comment: Somehow the public needs to understand that there must be more water storage. Period. Greenie groups will always fight it, but water storage really is a good thing!– Editor Liz Bowen

Posted:   04/11/2012 01:00:00 AM MDT

Gov. Hickenlooper targets water conservation, dams for Colorado River

Updated:   04/11/2012 10:54:30 AM MDT

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

The Ruby-Horsethief stretch of the Colorado River near Loma in Western Colorado. (Scott Willoughby, The Denver Post)

Gov. John Hickenlooper (Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file photo)

COLORADO SPRINGS — Gov. John Hickenlooper dived into an intensifying debate over the imperiled Colorado River on Tuesday with a call for radically increased water conservation and an assertion that some new dams will be needed.

“We have lessons around the world that we can do more with less,” Hickenlooper said at a Colorado College conference, referring to Australian cities where residents cut average per capita consumption to 36 gallons a day and to Israel’s highly efficient use of water in agriculture.

Denver’s done better than most U.S. cities, with residents reducing use by 20 percent since 2002 to 160 gallons a day, but “we can make dramatic additional efforts,” Hickenlooper said.

“Our self-discipline in the amount of water we use is going to be the foundation of everything we will do,” he said.

Yet further drawdown of the over-subscribed Colorado River is continuing as state officials support two major projects that would divert more river water across the Continental Divide to sustain Front Range urban communities.

The Colorado River provides water for 30 million people in seven states and Mexico. However, the latest federal data show that current withdrawals exceed the annual supply. Climate change, drought and population growth in the West are worsening the situation as users try to share the river and still support farming, hydropower, tourism and ecosystems.

Beyond conservation, “we’re going to need some more dams, ways to manage water,” Hickenlooper said.

Two rival pipeline projects would divert an additional 100,000 acre-feet or more of water from the upper Colorado River basin in Wyoming to the Front Range.

A state-backed task force is exploring the idea. State planners calculate that Colorado could be entitled to as much as 900,000 acre-feet of unallocated river water under the 1922 interstate compact that governs use of the river.

Hickenlooper declined in an interview

Boaters blend in with the spectacular scenery below the thunderous whitewater of Cataract Canyon as the Colorado River flows through Canyonlands National Park toward Lake Powell in southeastern Utah. (Scott Willoughby, The Denver Post)

to rule out a Wyoming diversion, saying that “we have to let that process run its course.”Hickenlooper and a team of state planners participated in the “State of the Rockies” forum at Colorado College that was launched by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Students issued a report that included recommendations to recognize limits, change laws to favor cooperation and refine “adaptive management” to deal with climate change.

Two recent graduates paddled kayaks the length of the river until they found it too depleted and had to slog on foot through mud.

Read more: Gov. Hickenlooper targets water conservation, dams for Colorado River – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_20368101/gov-hickenlooper-targets-water-conservation-dams-colorado-river#ixzz1rl0umS1k
Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

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California Water Wars Spotlight: Colorado River

Colorado River or Colorado

California Water Wars Spotlight: Colorado River

Posted 04/10/2012 by Bob Morris, in Arizona, California, Energy and Water with 2 Responses and 9 Reactions

Article should take about 2 – 4 minutes to read.

colorado_river_water_wars

Credit: peakwater.org

California, Arizona and five other states get substantial amounts of water from the Colorado River, which is rightfully known as the most litigated river on the planet. The water is allocated by the 1922 Colorado River Compact, an agreement that most everyone agrees is outdated. Yet no one really wants to renegotiate it for fear they might end up with less water than they get now.  Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t is the unspoken assumption.

You may be startled to learn that California gets more water from the Colorado than any other state, 4.4 million acre feet a year. Of that 3.8 goes to the Imperial Valley and three other irrigation districts for agriculture. Now, if you will, prepare yourself to enter the looking glass world of water rights.

The behemoth Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has a fourth and fifth priority right on some of that water. Those four irrigation districts have water rights that predate the Colorado River Compact. Thus, they receive allocations every year, drought or no drought, before anyone else.   Other states, notably Arizona, hadn’t been using their full allocations in previous years, which made their water available to others. But that has changed. Colorado River states are increasingly using all their allotments.  California had been using the excess but that supply is quickly vanishing.

In Utah, unused allocations aren’t an issue because the rule is “Use it or lose it.” You purchase water rights and if you don’t use all your water it can be taken from you. Until recently in Colorado, it was illegal to capture water running off your roof into a rain barrel because that water belonged to those with downstream water rights.  These examples perhaps give a flavor to the mind-numbing complexity of water rights. These gets compounded exponentially when water is shared between seven states.

The compact is divided into two tiers, upper and lower. The Upper Division (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) must not deplete their flow below a specified amount during any ten year period. This is so the Lower Division (Nevada, Arizona, and California) will get a roughly equal share.

Unfortunately, increased demand for Colorado River water brought on by growing populations and a lengthy drought have greatly hurt the Colorado. Fish populations are imperiled. Wetlands are becoming arid. The river barely empties into the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. That once lush river delta has deteriorated severely. Mexico is also a partner in the compact and most certainly will need (and deserves) more water.

Seven states compete for Colorado River water. But that supply is no longer reliable, and is in fact dwindling. The Colorado River Compact is 90 years old and is akin to using house and buggy technology at a modern airport. It is outmoded and needs to be renegotiated.

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