Colorado locks down water supply, promising “not a drop more” to California

Monday, December 29, 2014
By Paul Martin

by: C.L. Doherty
Monday, December 29, 2014

Recent storms dropped torrential rains across much of California, causing flooding and mudslides across many areas, leaving some residents homeless and killing at least two people. There was even a tornado in Los Angeles. Despite record rainfall on December 10 of between 1.54 inches at Long Beach Airport and 2.36 inches in Oxnard, the amount of rain that fell was a mere drop in the bucket for this drought-stricken state. A milder storm December 12 added to the rainfall total.

These early-winter storms left behind a combined 166 billion gallons of water, which seems like an enormous amount of water, but in reality is only enough water for 2.5 million people for one year. Given that California has been in a drought since 2011, and has a population of over 38 million, it is clear that California is far from done with its water woes. According to an article by the San Jose Mercury News, the California Department of Water Resources estimates that California will need six more major winter storms dropping similar amounts of rain to bring an end to the drought.

1922 Colorado River Compact still the base document for West’s water management

James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, isn’t waiting to find out if those storms occur over the next few months and is working on policies to address the situation now and in the coming decades. About 4.6 trillion gallons of water run down off the Rocky Mountains as the snow melts in spring. Much of the water flows downstream to Arizona, Nevada, Mexico and California.

Two-thirds of the snowmelt-generated water belongs to these downstream regions, also known as the Lower Basin states, while one-third of the water belongs to the Upper Basin states, which include Utah and Wyoming, as well as Colorado, per the 1922 Colorado River Compact. James Eklund does not want to deprive the Lower Basin states of their apportionment; he just wants to ensure that any excess generated in Colorado stays in Colorado.

Looking to water consumption in the future

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