Colorado official optimistic ruling won’t hurt water deal
Associated Press Writer
DENVER, Colorado – Colorado’s top water official is optimistic that a setback to a California water conservation plan won’t derail an agreement affecting the use of Colorado River by six other states in the West.
Dick Wolfe, director of the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said Tuesday that water officials have shown a new collective will to overcome obstacles to cooperation on the river.
A California state judge invalidated a conservation plan intended to curtail Southern California’s overuse of the river. Among other things, the plan called for an effort to restore California’s Salton Sea, an enormous desert lake.
The judge said California lawmakers hadn’t approved the state’s share of the Salton Sea project cost.
An appeal is planned, and the judge left the deal in place for now.
The California conservation plan also called for transferring trillions of gallons of water from agricultural to municipal use.
By expanding its municipal water supply through those transfers rather than taking more water from the Colorado River, California was set to become part of a landmark 2007 agreement on managing the Colorado River during droughts. Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are also party to the deal.
Unless the California conservation plan is resurrected or replaced, it could undermine the 2007 deal.
“It’s sort of a domino effect,” Wolfe said.
Still, Wolfe believes water officials will find a fix because of a new willingness to cooperate after decades of legal disputes.
“I think that somehow the parties that are involved will try to find a solution to address that part ruling,” he said.
Wolfe said it’s too early to predict with any certainly how the California court ruling might affect Colorado and the other states.
The California plan allowed more than 30 million acre-feet of water, or about 9.8 trillion gallons, to move from farms to cities over 75 years. By some estimates, one acre-foot of water would supply a four-person family for a year.
The plan committed California state government and a collection of water suppliers to pay up to $133 million toward restoring the Salton Sea, which is fed by the Colorado River irrigation channels that were being diverted.
The state’s share was estimated at about $60 million.
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