Published since 1946
Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan Approved by States, Passed in Congress
The seven states in the Colorado River Basin approved Drought Contingency Plans (DCP) in late March, and legislation authorizing implementation of the plans was passed by voice vote in the House and by unanimous consent by the Senate in early April. The DCPs update guidelines for water use of the river that were established in a 2007 plan and require the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation to implement the plan. The region has experienced extended drought resulting in low water levels in the river system’s two primary reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The new plan outlines cutbacks that states will be required to make if the two reservoirs fall below certain levels. In addition, implementation of the agreements will allow states to enhance conservation of Colorado River water and provide water management tools to address future shortfalls.
According to the letter transmitting the plans to members of Congress, the states outlined how prolonged drought since 2000 has caused storage levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead to reach their lowest levels since Lake Powell began filling in the 1960s. The states wrote: “Last year’s runoff into the Colorado River was the second lowest since 2000, and there is no sign that the trend of extended dry conditions will end any time soon even if 2019 provides above average runoff. Lakes Powell and Mead could reach critically low levels as early as 2021 if conditions do not significantly improve. Declining reservoirs threaten water supplies that are essential to the economy, environment, and health of the Southwestern United States.”
“I’m pleased that collaborative efforts among the seven Colorado River Basin states, local water agencies, Tribes, non-governmental organizations, Mexico and the Department of the Interior to reduce risk on the Colorado River are succeeding,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman in a statement. “I applaud Congress for taking prompt action on implementing legislation for the Drought Contingency Plans. This brings us one step closer to supporting agriculture and protecting the water supplies for 40 million people in the United States and Mexico. Working together remains the best approach for all those who rely on the Colorado River.”