California releases its own plan for Colorado River cuts
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California released a plan Tuesday detailing how Western states reliant on the Colorado River should save more water. It came a day after the six other states in the river basin made a competing proposal.
In a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, California described how states could conserve between 1 million and nearly 2 million acre feet of water through new cuts based on the elevation of Lake Mead, a key reservoir.
Its plan did not account for water lost to evaporation and during transportation — a move sought by the other states that would mean big cuts for California.
The 1,450-mile river (2,334-kilometer) serves 40 million people across the West and Mexico, generating hydroelectric power for regional markets and irrigating nearly 6 million acres (2,428 hectares) of farmland.
A multi-decade drought in the West worsened by climate change, rising demand and overuse has sent water levels at key reservoirs along the river to unprecedented lows. That has forced federal and state officials to take additional steps to protect the system.
California's plan and the separate methods outlined by states Monday came in response to Reclamation asking them last year to detail how they would use between 15% and 30% less water. The federal agency operates the major dams in the river system.
All seven states missed that deadline last August. Six of them regrouped and came to an agreement by the end of January. California was the the lone holdout to that agreement, and responded Tuesday with its own plan.
Unlike the other states’ plan, California’s does not factor the roughly 1.5 million acre feet of Colorado River water lost to evaporation and transportation.
Instead, it proposes reducing water taken out of Lake Mead by 1 million acre feet, with...