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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Colorado River becomes the center of a quarrel

Por Damian

A fresh quarrel is in the newspapers! Tension over the Colorado River became a public dispute when four US states accused an Arizona state company of manipulating supply and demand, a potential threat to millions of people in the United States and Mexico who depend on the river, reported El Nuevo Herald.

The four states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming), as well as the public water company in Denver, said that the Central Arizona Project is trying to avoid a reduction in the part of the river's water flow, while the others voluntarily agreed to reduce the volume of water they extract to avoid a crisis now that there is a prolonged drought.

"A water user is taking advantage of the situation for their own benefit, to the detriment of a river that supplies nearly 40 million people", said Jim Lochhead, manager of Denver Water, which receives approximately half of its water from the river.

Central Arizona Project refuted the allegations and said it has been saving. The company uses canals, pipelines and aqueducts to transport water along 336 miles from the Colorado River to five million people in central and southern Arizona. The water source in question is the soul of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, but it is under intense stress because the demand is increasing and the river becomes less abundant.

Researchers say the decline is due to the drought that has affected the region for 18 years and climate change. The picture looks worse. Last winter was exceptionally dry in most of the central and southern Rocky Mountains, so the melting of snow to feed the river will be below average.

The dispute over the Central Arizona Project revolves around how much water flows from the upper part of the Colorado River system to the lower part. The upper part, called the Upper Basin, includes the four states that challenge the Arizona company. The lower part includes Arizona, California and Nevada.

Each basin has the right to take advantage of approximately half of the river's water under norms established in a series of interstate agreements, judicial decisions and international treaties. To ensure that the Lower Basin states receive their share, those in the Upper Basin send water from the gigantic dam of Lake Powell to the dam of Lake Mead downstream, which is even larger. In 2007, the Upper Basin states agreed to send additional water to Lake Mead if the conditions were right to prevent the level of that dam from going too low.

The Upper Basin states now claim that the Central Arizona Project is manipulating its portion in a way that keeps Lake Mead low enough that Upper Basin states have to send additional water, but high enough to avoid mandatory cuts in the consumption of the Lower Basin.

Ted Cooke, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, said that level is the "optimal point". In statements made on the company's website, he indicated that it wants to keep Lake Mead there as much as possible.