Bureau of Reclamation encourages cooperation on the Colorado River

Colorado River-users must respect each other’s rights as water supplies decline due to increasing population growth and continued drought, says Bureau of Reclamation

Bureau of Reclamation Lower Colorado Regional Director Terry Fulp reminded the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors at their meeting on November 5th of the need to communicate with the other interests along the Colorado River.

California, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming all share the river’s resources, as does part of Mexico. In 1922, the seven states negotiated the Colorado River Compact to divide the basin into an upper and lower half, both receiving 7.5 million acre-feet. The Mexican Water Treaty of 1944 committed 1.5 million acre-feet from the river to Mexico annually. Additional compacts and laws, collectively constituting the “Law of the River,” further define the distribution of water within and between these parties—and hold them accountable to each other.

Fulp drew attention, for example, to the Quantification Settlement Agreement, enacted in 2003, which demands that California reduce its annual use of the river to 4.4 million acre-feet. Fulp also pointed to the recently (2012) finalized Minute 319, an amendment to the Mexican Water Treaty of 1944 that establishes rules for the U.S. and Mexico to share water reductions and surpluses over a five-year period. California, Arizona and Nevada water agencies will also help to fund improvements to Mexicali Valley’s earthquake-damaged irrigation system. Both countries will participate in ecosystem restoration efforts.

Increased water demand and a lengthy drought period have depleted water in the Colorado River, causing storage levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell to drop from full capacity in 1999 to 45% today. Fulp expressed that the parties along the river must continue to honor the “Law of the River” even as water levels decline. Their cooperation will help sustain the river’s resources.

Minute 319 (216.6 KiB)

1944Treaty (1.5 MiB)

Written by Stratecon Staff