LOS ANGELES, Dec. 9 - Facing the worst drought in a century and the prospect that climate change could yield long-term changes on the Colorado River, the lifeline for several Western states, federal officials have reached a new pact with the states on how to allocate water if the river runs short.
State and federal officials praised the agreement as a landmark akin to
the Colorado River Compact of 1922, which first outlined how much water
the seven states served by the river - California, Nevada, Arizona,
Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming - would receive annually.
The new accord, outlined by federal officials in a telephone news
conference Friday, spells out how three downriver states - California,
Arizona and Nevada - will share the impact of water shortages. It puts
in place new measures to encourage conservation and manage the two
primary reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which have gone from
nearly full to just about half-empty since 1999.
The accord is expected to forestall litigation that was likely to have
arisen as fast-growing states jockey for the best way to keep the water
flowing to their residents and businesses in increasingly dry times. It
would be in effect through 2026 and could be revised during that time.
Some environmental groups said the pact did not go far enough to
encourage conservation and discourage growth. But federal officials
said they took the best of several proposals by the states,
environmental organizations and others and emphasized the importance of
all seven states agreeing with the result.
"I think for the first time in 85 years we are on the same page," said
Herb Guenther, the director of water resources in Arizona, which had
initially balked at some terms of the agreement and was threatening
legal action over it.
But with water levels in reservoirs dropping, a record eight-year
drought, the prospect that climate change could bring more dry spells
and new scientific analyses suggesting the West could be drier than has
been traditionally believed, the states were pushed to act.
These factors "forced the issue to the head and we decided to do something unique and different," Mr. Guenther said.
The agreement, the product of two-and-a-half years of negotiation and
study, establishes criteria for the Interior Department to declare a
shortage on the river, which would occur when the system is unable to
produce the 7.5 million acre-feet of water, enough to supply 15 million
homes for a year, that the three downriver states are entitled to.
Full Story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/10/us/10water.html?_r=1&oref=login
Western States Agree to Water-Sharing Pact
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
The New York Times, December 10, 2007
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