Colorado River voluntary cuts by California, Nevada, Arizona

Lake Mead bathtub ring
Lake Mead bathtub ring

Water officials in three states have negotiated voluntary water reductions in water use from the Colorado River. The deal, which still needs to be ratified by the states and various water agencies, is aimed at slowing any decline in water levels at Lake Mead. It is the first time California, whose Imperial Valley receives 18% of all water from the Colorado, has agreed to cuts. I believe this voluntary agreement was spurred by the federal government, which said make an agreement or we will make it for you.

Lake Mead is now at 1075 feet. Nevada gets a tiny 1.8% share of Colorado River water and because it recycles all indoor water, can handle the cuts with no problem. Recycled water is sent back to Lake Mead and does not count against its allotment. California water cuts start if Lake Mead drops to 1045. Oh, some squeaked because Steve Wynn says he will convert his golf course, which is just off the Strip, to a 28 acre lagoon. Doing so will actually save substantial amounts of water, plus he owns the water rights.

Nevada’s share of the proposed cuts is comparatively small, but so is the state’s annual river allocation of 300,000 acre-feet, Entsminger said.

Nevada would leave 8,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead each year under the first round of voluntary cuts, while Arizona would lose 192,000 of its 2.8 million acre-foot allocation. One acre-foot of water is enough to supply two average Las Vegas Valley homes for just over a year.

The annual reductions would increase to 10,000 acre-feet for Nevada and 240,000 acre-feet for Arizona should the surface of Lake Mead drop another 32 feet from current level, to 1,045 feet above sea level.

One comment

  1. Saving of water to replenish Lake Mead seems like a reasonable goal. It may not be as reasonable, but I’d like to see water savings that allow an increased flow on the Mexican side. As it is, Colorado River water dries in the Sonoran Desert before it ever reaches it’s destination in Baja, California. As a result, the upper Sea of Cortez is so dead fish can no longer live in it. Villages that once supported themselves by fishing have been forced out. This is hardly a good neighbor policy.

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