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Water deliveries to the Colorado could drop by up to 30% by 2025

Water deliveries to the Colorado could drop by up to 30% by 2025

New push to shore up shrinking Colorado River could reduce water flow to California, Nevada, Baja states

This article is more than 1 year old

This article is more than 1 year old

California, Nevada and Mexico are about to get a lot less water from the Colorado River, threatening the survival of the entire region. So far the Trump administration’s proposed changes to two laws regulating water use have focused on reducing the flow of water from the river to the Colorado, which is already being cut off from its southern tributary by new pumping plants in the south.

But this week, the administration will push for changes to the two laws that govern water deliveries on the Colorado itself, in an attempt to reduce water use there by nearly 70%. The changes could have the effect of reducing water deliveries to the Colorado by 30% or more, according to a confidential memo the federal government sent to environmental groups.

The changes could reduce deliveries of water from the Colorado to the entire basin by between 1.8% and 21.4% by 2025, according to the memo. That would put it at a rate of just 21,000 cfs or about the equivalent of 13% less water than the current deliveries.

“This is a huge, huge deal,” said Kate Poon, a law professor at the National University of Singapore.

“If we start to see diminishing returns, that means when we talk about water conflicts in the southwest, they become more intense,” she said.

The memo warns that the administration is worried about a future in which water deliveries are constrained even by existing laws.

The Colorado cuts off as the river approaches its delta as it flows towards the sea. The river has already dipped by 40% just once in the last 30 years.

The memo says that if the new rules are implemented as it proposes, delivery to the Colorado would drop by up to 21.4% in 2025 (when the rule would take effect) and by up to 30.6% in 2030 (when the rule would expire). “Because this is a very, very tough analysis … it is necessary to take into account the potential for over-shooting,” it says.

But the memo does not explicitly say what the consequences could be if those reductions were to be realised

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