- The Biden Administration has proposed three options to preserve the dwindling Colorado River water.
- One of the solutions proposes equal cuts for three states in the lower Colorado River basin: California, Arizona and Nevada, while another respects seniority and proposes the strictest cuts for Arizona and Nevada.
- California water officials have voiced concerns that the proposed plans violate the Law of the River, which respects state’s water rights based on seniority.
- A final analysis is expected to be published later this year.
The Biden Administration is taking action to preserve the dwindling water in the Colorado River, a proposal from the United States Department of Interior (DOI) revealed on Tuesday.
Stressed by population growth, overuse and parched by a years-long drought that has plagued the region, the Colorado River is suffering. States in the lower Colorado basin have been negotiating for months to draft a plan that would preserve the valuable resource while continuing to provide water service to millions of residents and fuel the nation’s agricultural industry.
Required water cuts have already been implemented and increased in severity this year for Arizona and Nevada. Western states are scrambling to come up with a solution that preserves their access to Colorado River water while uniting the region on a path to recovery for the drought-stricken river and its associated reservoirs.
Recent atmospheric rivers pummeling the West Coast have aided in drought issues, but experts have said the only way to save the Colorado River is to reduce use—a sticky subject that has states in the lower Colorado River basin disagreeing about water allocation.
At the beginning of the year, six of the states in the Colorado River basin united with a proposed plan for water conservation. The plan would force California to bear some of the cuts. A day later, California came out with its own plan, which would put the brunt of the cuts on Arizona and preserve California’s allocation because of the state’s senior water rights.
3 Options for Distributing Colorado River Water
Rather than wait and allow the states to continue struggling with a solution, the Biden Administration is taking control of the matter. On Tuesday, the DOI released a proposal consisting of three options.
1. Equal Cuts
One of the solutions proposes equal cuts for three states in the lower Colorado River basin: California, Arizona and Nevada.
The decision would impose cuts on California, which has thus far emerged from the Colorado River allocation changes relatively unscathed. California water officials have previously spoken out against proposals reducing water allocation in the Golden State, reasoning that the proposals violate the Law of the River, which respects state’s water rights based on seniority.
“The best way to avoid conflict and ensure that we can put water in the river right away is through a voluntary approach, not putting proposals that sidestep the Law of the River and ignore California’s senior right and give no respect to that,” Colorado River Board of California Chairman JB Hamby said after California made its Colorado River proposal in January.
Other options proposed by the DOI respect seniority and propose the strictest cuts on Arizona and Nevada. The situation could turn dire for areas like Phoenix and Tucson, which have already borne the brunt of water allocation cuts.
A third option proposed by the DOI was to do nothing.
The New York Times reported the draft did not endorse either of the three options. A final analysis is expected to be published later this year.
Newsweek reached out to the DOI by email for comment.