States have much at stake in proposed Colorado River guidelines | SummitDaily.com
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States have much at stake in proposed Colorado River guidelines

JUDITH KOHLERthe associated press

DENVER – The four upper basin states that use Colorado River water have a big stake in the success of a proposal for managing the river, especially as the region’s drought drags on, say negotiators and water managers.The upper basin states – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico – are already struggling with drought and could face cutbacks if they and other users of the river water in Arizona, California and Nevada fight rather than cooperate, said Jim Lochhead, an attorney representing several Colorado water districts and communities.The seven states hope that an agreement they signed last week after months of negotiations will be adopted by the Interior Department to help manage the Colorado River.The Interior Department is considering guidelines for dealing with water shortages. The guidelines would update a 1922 compact laying out the states’ shares of water from the river that starts in the Never Summer Range of the Rockies in north-central Colorado.Arizona, California, Nevada and, under a treaty, Mexico are guaranteed a certain amount of river water every year. The upper basin states, so called because of their geography, divvy up the rest, which the states say isn’t as much as estimated when the compact was approved.The proposal would allow the upper basin to deliver less water during droughts and includes incentives for conservation, improved efficiency and ways for users to bank water in the reservoirs.The Interior Department expects to issue a final environmental impact statement on the guidelines by year’s end. The agency had encouraged states to come up with their own solution or face one imposed by the government.”Colorado has a huge amount at stake in these negotiations primarily because if we are in a situation where we don’t meet our compact obligations and are required to curtail uses, the first users in Colorado potentially affected are the whole Denver, Front Range municipal area,” said Lochhead, one of the main negotiators.


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