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What's next for Colorado River conservation? States submit their plan; California has its own idea

colorado river issues
Posted at 8:23 PM, Feb 02, 2023

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — As the western drought continues, the federal government is targeting more water cuts from states using Colorado River water.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation wants to intensify water conservation in the states using the water, in part to address the lowering levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

Two ideas are now under consideration for the water plan: one from California, the other a joint plan from the other river states — including Nevada.

The bureau wanted ideas submitted by Jan. 31. Weeks ago, the Southern Nevada Water Authority submitted its plan. And this week, California submitted its own idea after the other six states using the river, including Nevada, had agreed on a joint plan.

"When Lake Mead gets really low, both proposals say we have got to conserve a lot of water," said John Berggren, senior regional water policy analyst at Western Resource Advocates.

The major difference between the two plans, he explains, is that the six-state proposal pushes for extreme cuts to happen sooner and water evaporation to be accounted for in each state's allocation.

"They would be charged for evaporation, system losses all the way up to Lake Mead," Berggren explained. "How that plays out is California would lose 700,000 acre feet of water."

An acre foot is enough water to supply two to three U.S. households for a year.

"That is a lot of water," Berggren added. "They claim they have the legal right to it, so they are going to push back tooth and nail."

The next step is for the Bureau of Reclamation to consider the ideas states presented and formulate a final water-saving plan.