Seven Colorado River States Submit Water-sharing Plan

The seven states that share the Colorado River have submitted a plan to the U.S. Interior Department on managing scarce water resources during droughts.

If adopted by the interior secretary, the plan would represent the most comprehensive set of operating guidelines in the history of the Colorado River, officials said on April 30. The plan would affect more than 30 million water users who depend upon the drought-plagued river system.

"The adversity of drought has brought the states together and forced us to rethink how we manage this precious resource," said Colorado River Commission Executive Director George Caan. "Ironically, the level of cooperation and flexibility reflected in this plan would have been unthinkable in times of plenty. This represents a giant step forward in terms of our ability to balance the needs of agriculture, the environment and municipal water customers."

The plan was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in response to the draft environmental impact statement for Colorado River operations. While still working within the "Law of the River" -- a complex web of treaties, agreements and court decisions dating back to the 1920s -- this new plan emphasizes flexibility and interstate cooperation, officials said.

Under the proposed plan, the upper basin states could release less water downstream if drought persists and less-than-average snowpack accumulates on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains. To adjust, the lower basin states would augment their supplies through what the plan describes as "intentionally created surpluses." The plan also includes a water shortage agreement between Nevada and Arizona.

The seven Colorado River Basin states are: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico (upper basin); and Arizona, California and Nevada (lower basin). For more information, contact the Colorado River Commission of Nevada at

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