States, Feds Agree On Colorado River Allocation
Seven western states and the U.S. federal government have finalized an agreement to more fairly share the water of the Colorado River. The deal aims to hold California to a 1929 agreement to limit its use of the river.
Controversy over the allocation of the Colorado River to thirsty Western states reaches back to the early 20th century. Under the 1922 Colorado River Compact, the river’s estimated 15 million acre feet of annual water is divided among seven states – Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and California.
Under the terms of the Colorado River Water Delivery Agreement that Norton signed, California will limit its use of Colorado River water to the state’s authorized limit of 4.4 million acre feet a year, fulfilling a 1929 promise.
California had been using up to 800,000 acre feet a year above its authorized share, causing major concerns in the other six states that unless that over reliance was curbed, California might someday seek a permanent right to the extra water it has been using.
The reduction will take place over the next 14 years.
The deal centers on a commitment by agricultural interests in California’s Imperial Valley to divert as much as 90 billion gallons a year to San Diego.
It also addresses environmental concerns with the Salton Sea, an inland lake that depends on runoff from Imperial Valley farms.
The signing of the deal reinstates the Interim Surplus Guidelines, which provides California access to extra Colorado water over 14 years to ease its gradual reduction and lessen pressure on Northern California to send more water south.
Norton had revoked that access early this year when California missed a December 31, 2002 deadline to strike a deal.
The reinstated Guidelines also will allow Nevada, which lost access to extra water from the Colorado River along with California, to again have access to this water.
Provided by theEnvironmental News Service.