Energy & Environment

Six Colorado River states submit alternative to federal cuts

Getty Images

Six of the seven states on the Colorado River said Monday night that they have reached a framework for an alternative to potential looming federal cuts after the Jan. 31 deadline.

Representatives for Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming said they have reached an alternative on updates to the 2007 guidelines for the Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell and the Hoover Dam at Lake Mead. California is the seventh state in the basin.

Negotiators said the framework is not a formal agreement but includes plans to reduce release from the two reservoirs. It would cut a total of 250,000 acre-feet of water to Arizona, California and Nevada at Lake Mead for elevations of 1,030 feet and below and would cut 200,000 acre-feet to the same three states at elevations of 1,020 feet and below.

“This modeling proposal is a key step in the ongoing dialogue among the Seven Basin States as we continue to seek a collaborative solution to stabilize the Colorado River system,” Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said in a statement.

“While our goal remains achieving a seven-state agreement, developing and submitting this consensus based alternative is a positive step forward in a multi-phased environmental review process critical to protecting the Colorado River system,” added John Entsminger, Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager.

Use of water from the river is still governed by a century-old compact between states that allocates more water than actually flows through it. After years of gridlock, the federal Bureau of Reclamation last year suggested it could unilaterally impose cuts if the states cannot reach a new agreement by February.

The negotiations come as lakes Powell and Mead reached record lows last year. The Bureau of Reclamation has emphasized that Jan. 31 is a self-imposed deadline, rather than a point at which cuts will be automatically triggered.

“California’s decision not to join this consensus is deeply disappointing. We are facing the most serious drought in 1,200 years. California must step forward and be part of the solution. For too long, the other six states, and particularly the Upper Basin, have carried the burden of this historic drought,” Sen Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said in a statement. “I urge Interior Secretary [Deb] Haaland to recognize the leadership of these six states and enact their consensus proposal.”

Tyler Cherry, an Interior Department spokesperson, told The Hill in a statement that “[o]ngoing conversations with the Basin states, Tribes, water managers, farmers, irrigators and other stakeholders are helping to inform the supplemental process. This will help ensure that any action from the Department is done with as much support and consensus as possible.”

“This collaborative supplemental process is our strongest immediate tool to help improve and protect the short-term sustainability of the Colorado River System by empowering the Bureau of Reclamation to take necessary action,” Cherry added.

The Hill has reached out to the State of California Colorado River Board for comment.

Updated: Jan. 31 at 10:09 a.m.


Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video