Amid a historic drought that threatens the Colorado River, Rep. Greg Stanton today said that California’s increased water usage is unsustainable and that all stakeholders along the river must do their part to conserve water to avoid system collapse.
Reservoirs along the Colorado—including Lake Mead and Lake Powell—are at historic lows. Yet the Los Angeles Times reports California’s Colorado River region actually increased water usage by nearly 41 percent in April 2022 compared to April 2020. The South Coast, including Los Angeles County, increased usage by 25 percent. Statewide, water usage increased nearly 18 percent in the same period.
In a letter to the Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation, Stanton urged the agency to ensure all basin states do their fair share to conserve water and safeguard the long-term health of the river.
“In a time of historic drought, that is astounding and unacceptable,” Stanton wrote. “To avoid the collapse of the Colorado River system… we need every stakeholder to maintain a steadfast commitment to conservation and drought management.”
Last week, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton testified to Congress that an additional 2 million to 4 million-acre-feet of reduction in water use is needed by 2023 to protect critical levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell—necessary to keep the river functioning and capable of delivering water, crop irrigation and power to millions of people in the Southwest.
Arizonans are doing their part to conserve, Stanton said. Arizona’s contribution to water conservation in Lake Mead this year alone will be approximately 800,000 acre-feet, in part due to cuts under the current Tier I shortage, the 500 Plus Plan and other voluntary conservation efforts. This month, Valley cities including Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa entered into the first stages of their drought management plans and asked residents to voluntarily conserve water.
Federal officials have made it clear that conserving the necessary acre-feet is the shared responsibility of all seven basin states, but if a workable agreement cannot be reached, the Bureau of Reclamation will take unilateral action to protect the system.
Stanton’s letter is available HERE.