The United States and Several Western Water Providers Enter into a Historic Agreement to Mitigate the Effects of the Drought Affecting the Colorado River System

by Snell & Wilmer
Contact

The Colorado River and its extensive system of reservoirs and aqueducts that range from Wyoming to the Mexican border are being depleted by more than a decade of severe drought. As a result, the water levels in the two largest man-made reservoirs in the nation—Lake Mead and Lake Powell—are reaching critically low levels. If the water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell continue to decline as projected by current Colorado River modeling studies, the lakes could soon reach levels that would trigger shortages along the Colorado River system. These shortages would affect the ability of some water users to continue to receive Colorado River water and could also impact the production of hydroelectric energy along the Colorado River, affecting power supply and pricing to millions of consumers from Arizona to Nebraska.

On July 30, 2014, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) entered into a landmark Colorado River System Conservation Program Agreement with the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Denver Water and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. The purpose of the agreement is to establish a pilot program (the Program) that would encourage water conservation by compensating Colorado River water users for voluntary reductions in water use in order to keep water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell above critically low elevations. Potential conservation options include increasing water efficiency and fallowing existing agricultural lands.

The falling water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell could result in reduced water deliveries to California, Arizona and Nevada and new restrictions placed on upstream water users in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming who utilize Colorado River water. Lake Powell collects runoff from parts of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, and water released from Lake Powell is stored in Lake Mead, located 180 miles downstream of Lake Powell. Lake Mead, in turn, is a crucial source of water for cities in Nevada, Arizona and Southern California, including Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Lake Mead also supplies water to millions of acres of farmland in Arizona and California. Due to the ongoing drought, Reclamation recently reduced the flow of water into Lake Mead from Lake Powell to a historic low. The volume of water in Lake Mead is directly affected by releases from Lake Powell (which is currently only at 50 percent capacity), and the reduced releases from Lake Powell have caused the level of Lake Mead to sink to its lowest level since it was constructed in the 1930s. 

Under the agreement, Reclamation, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Denver Water and the Southern Nevada Water Authority have agreed to make monetary contributions to implement a pilot program and fund conservation programs called “System Conservation” activities. System Conservation activities are voluntary programs that will result in a “measurable reduction of consumptive use of Colorado River water.” The System Conservation activities will be targeted at reducing water demand for a variety of uses, including agricultural, municipal and industrial. Reclamation will contribute $3 million to the Program and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Denver Water and the Southern Nevada Water Authority will each contribute $2 million. Of the $11 million pledged by the parties, no more than $8.25 million may be for System Conservation projects within Arizona, California and Nevada.

All Colorado River water conserved as a result of the Program will be used to increase the water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell and may not accrue for the benefit or use of any individual water user. Participation in the Program is limited to persons and entities that have existing authorization to divert Colorado River water for beneficial uses. The Program will provide funding for pilot conservation programs in 2015 and 2016, and successful projects may be expanded or extended beyond 2016. The agreement will terminate on December 31 of the year in which the latest System Conservation agreement expires.

Proposals for inclusion in the Program will be judged on 14 factors, including the size of the proposed project, the amount of time required to implement the proposal, the number of intervening water users located between the project and Lakes Mead or Powell, required environmental compliance, the ability to obtain any required third-party consents or forbearance agreements, and the degree to which the proposed project will generate measurable increases in flows or water quality that are beneficial for the environment. Where possible, Program participants will be paid in arrears, after verification that project implementation has occurred. Additionally, on-farm water conservation improvements proposed through the Program may also be considered for funding and technical assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which could increase the benefit to some Program participants.

To ensure that local concerns are addressed, Reclamation will manage all Program actions in Arizona, California and Nevada. For Program actions in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, a contracting entity, such as Reclamation, the Upper Colorado River Commission or the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum, will be selected to manage the actions of the Program in those states. Several pilot projects are currently in the planning stages and some proposals may be funded as early as next year. Although the Program is merely a pilot program that cannot fully offset the effects of the ongoing drought, the projects that may come out of the Program could provide the basis for significant future water efficiencies and reductions in water usage that could benefit all parties and increase the viability of the Colorado River system for current and future generations.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Snell & Wilmer | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Snell & Wilmer
Contact
more
less

Snell & Wilmer on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.