Thursday, March 1, 2007
How to manage the Colorado River until 2026? Bureau of Reclamation issues an EIS on proposed guidelines
The Bureau of Reclamation has issued a draft environmental impact statement on proposed guidelines for managing the flow of the Colorado River through Lake Powell and Lake Mead, particularly under drought conditions. The guidelines, once adopted, would be in force until the year 2026.
As last week's report from the National Research Council showed (see our earlier posting), we should expect drought conditions to be common, especially as global warming intensifies. So this is a big deal. How the bureau chooses to manage water in the Colorado will impact many millions of people in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and throughout the parts of the interior West that depend on the river for water.
The EIS considers five alternatives. The first is a "no action alternative." Here are the others:
Basin States Alternative: Under this plan, the bureau would operate Lake Powell and Lake Mead in a coordinated manner to minimize shortages in the Lower Basin states (Arizon, California and Nevada) "and avoid risk of curtailments of use in the Upper Basin" (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming).
Conservation Before Shortage Alternative: Developed by a coalition of environmental groups and other NGOs, this alternative would include "voluntary, compensated reductions in water use to minimize involuntary shortages in the Lower Basin and avoid risk of curtailments of use in the Upper Basin."
Water Supply Alternative: This plan would maximize delivery of water at the expense of keeping water in the reservoirs for future use.
Reservoir Storage Alternative: This plan was developed in coordination with Western agencies, the Naitonal Park Service and other stakeholders. It would "keep more water in storage in Lake Powell and Lake Mead by reducing water deliveries and increasing shortages to benefit power and recreational interests."
The draft EIS was released for public review and comment on Wednesday, Feb. 28.