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The western states are building different routes as the water shortage is shaking

SALT LEAK CITY (AP) – As sustained drought and climate change threaten the Colorado River, several water-relying states admit they are unlikely to get what they promised a century ago.

But not Utah.

Republican lawmakers have approved a structure that could claim a majority stake in Utah as more than seven western states prepare to negotiate how to protect the river, which serves 40 million people. Critics say the legislation, which the governor has yet to sign, could boost Utah’s efforts to complete a $ 1 billion pipeline from a missing reservoir, a key indicator of river health.

Other states have had similar scores for decades, but Utah’s schedule has raised questions about finding a fairer way to maintain the obligation to “survive less.”

“There is a centralized mass shutdown of climate change,” said Ahl Frankel, executive director of the Utah River Council, which opposed the legislation. “The other six basin states know that the Colorado River is flowing, they know they have to reduce their use while Utah is running in this fantasy.”

The river supplies Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Mexico, and $ 5 billion a year in agricultural industry. As states face a dire environmental: negotiating a new plan to protect the aqueduct from drought, this is forcing a shift in thinking.

The goal of the new talks is to find out how to use less, “not to get out of politics, but to try to figure out how to use it,” said John von Fleck, director of the University of Mexico University’s Resource Program.

“It’s just not clear that Utah is ready to do that,” he said.

The six members of the Colorado River Authority in Utah, Colorado, were to oversee the state’s negotiations on the drought plan այլ other rules completed by 2026. Opponents worry that some pieces of legislation will allow the authorities to evade control by keeping some documents secret and allowing closed meetings.

House Speaker Brad Wilson said Utah would pursue security, but that alone would not meet the needs of one of the nation’s fastest-growing states. Utah has the right to receive water under long-term agreements between the states.

“We just have to make sure that by maintaining the Colorado River, we have the experience and the tools that we need to do that,” Wilson said.

The bill comes six months after other states reprimanded a plan to build an Utah underground pipeline that would transport billions of gallons of water 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Lake Powell to St. George, Utah, near the border with Arizona.

According to the census, Utah began pursuing the pipeline 15 years ago to serve the city, which has seen a 23% increase in population since 2010, probably due to its hot climate, red rock, and outdoor recreation. The project is under federal review.

Experts are concerned that Utah, which has had its driest year since 2020, is banking on water that may not be available and could further destabilize Lake Powell. Utah is one of the so-called upper basin states, which gets its share of water at its current interest rate, but has not historically used it all. The lower states of the basin, Arizona, California and N’Jada, receive certain quantities that are subject to reduction.

Utah plans to pump 400,000 acres of water into the 1 million acres it typically uses. One hectare is enough to serve one to two medium-sized households per year.

“Using more than the Colorado River system may be legal somewhere, but it is not a practical reality of the system we have today,” said James Ames Eklund, former director of Upper Colorado. River Commission, an interstate agency that sells water.

To save money, states have enacted legislation to protect other water resources.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey recently signed into law a bill that would allow farmers, ranchers, and others to submit conservation plans without losing their full water rights. Colorado and New Mexico have eased “use it or lose it” laws.

Arizona law does not affect the Colorado River, but it can increase water in other streams and rivers for wildlife, recreation, or urban use.

“Everyone in the state needs to take a good, long look at the water they use, how much water they expect to use in the future, and how to manage it properly so that everyone has long-term water safety. Said Kim Mitchell of Western Resource Advocates, who supported the Arizona bill.

Utah is not alone in its history of litigation, litigation, and advocacy for protecting its share of water, although much of it has recently come from the lower states of the basin, which use most of their water.

In Southern California, the Imperial Irrigation District, which has the largest portion of the Colorado River, refused to join a drought program without federal money to repair the polluted inland sea, which poses a health risk because evaporation leaves polluted dust. The Salton Sea will also be the main point of the revision negotiations.

Southern Nevada has built a pipeline near the bottom of Lake Mead to ensure that taps will continue to flow to Las Vegas homes and casinos, even if the reservoir can no longer supply water to Arizona, California, or Mexico.

And Native Americans want to make sure their voices are not lost in the negotiations because they say they have been in the past. The 29 tribes in the Colorado River Basin are collectively entitled to about 20% of its flow.

“The days of tribalism are over, when the federal government, the states, the states, the other entities, are setting the conditions for water management, the distribution of which our people are entitled to depends on survival,” said Stephen Ro Lewis, governor of the Gila River Indian community. in the announcement.

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Fonseca reports from Flagstaff, Arizona. Sam Metz, of Carson, Nevada, contributed to this story. Metz և Eppolito are members of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service that places journalists in the local media to cover impeccable issues.

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