Drought Contingency Plan

Salton Sea
Luke Runyon / KUNC

Updated at 3 p.m.

A California irrigation district that has the largest entitlement to Colorado River water says it doesn't support proposed federal legislation to implement a multi-state drought plan.

The Imperial Irrigation District says language in a packet that several Western states recently sent to Congress would waive environmental laws.

Luke Runyon / KUNC

Water leaders from the seven states that make up the Colorado River basin are one step closer to finalizing a drought contingency plan. Representatives from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, California and Arizona met in Phoenix Tuesday to sign a letter to Congress asking for federal approval of the plan.

Luke Runyon / KUNC

High snowpack in the southern Rocky Mountains this winter will likely stave off a shortage declaration in the Colorado River watershed in 2020, relieving pressure on water managers attempting to navigate future scarcity.

New data from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation models show a lessened risk of a key Colorado River reservoir dropping far enough to trigger a first-ever shortage declaration. Snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin is at 138 percent of the long-term median, a level not seen in mid-March since 1997.

Luke Runyon / KUNC

The last day of January was looking like a banner day for Arizona's water planning. State lawmakers had passed legislation authorizing Arizona to enter into an important deal. Governor Doug Ducey signed the bills almost immediately.

Salton Sea
Luke Runyon / KUNC

A California irrigation district with the highest-priority rights to water from a major Western river is using its power to demand federal funds to restore the state's largest lake, hoping to capitalize on one of its best opportunities yet to tackle a long-standing environmental and human health hazard.

Irrigation canal
Luke Runyon / KUNC

Arizona won't have all the pieces of a Colorado River drought plan finished by the federal government's deadline to finalize protections for water used by millions across the U.S. West, state water officials said Tuesday.

It's the latest hurdle threatening the plan between seven states to take less water from the drought-starved Colorado River, which supplies 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of farmland. Missing the March 4 deadline could allow the federal government to step in and decide the rules.

Lake Powell
Luke Runyon / KUNC / LightHawk

States that rely on the Colorado River for their water supplies are currently unable to finish a series of agreements that would keep its biggest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, from dropping to levels not seen since they were filled decades ago.

Five states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nevada — are done. The country of Mexico has also completed its portion. But California and Arizona failed to meet a Jan. 31 federal government deadline to wrap up negotiations and sign a final agreement.

Eric Hjermstad
Luke Runyon / KUNC

Each winter, anxious water managers, farmers and city leaders in the American Southwest turn their eyes toward the snowy peaks of the southern Rocky Mountains.

The piling snow is a massive frozen reservoir, and its depth and weight can foreshadow the year ahead. Millions of dollars are spent divining what a heavy or light snowpack means for the region's reservoirs, for its booming cities, for its arid farmland.

Lake Mead
Luke Runyon / KUNC

Arizona is facing a deadline to become the last of several states in the U.S. West to approve a plan ensuring shared water from the Colorado River doesn't dry up for millions of farmers, cities, tribes and developers that depend on it.

Gov. Doug Ducey
Bret Jaspers / KJZZ

The seven states that rely on the Colorado River are trying to finalize details on how use less of its water. Currently all eyes are on Arizona, which has a had a tough time agreeing how to dole out cuts to water supplies.

On the first day of the legislative session, water led Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's State of the State address. More specifically, he wants a drought plan finished — one that keeps the Colorado River system at healthy levels.

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