Photo: John Locher/Associated Press
Bruce Finley, Denver Post
Faced with reservoirs less than half full along the Colorado River, federal authorities and negotiators for Colorado and six other Western states on Tuesday finalized a landmark plan to share the burden of voluntarily using less water as growing cities and warming temperatures deplete the supply for 40 million people.
This “drought contingency” plan completed by the seven Western states to meet an extended federal deadline is “meant to avoid a crisis on the river,” said U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman.
After 2026, the feds will look at flows in what scientists project will be a more diminished Colorado River and, working with states, “we will negotiate our next step,” Burman said.
This complex water plan hashed out since 2017 depends on all residents of the West using less water to deal with a 19-year shift toward aridity. Negotiators tinkered with fundamentals of the 1922 law that divvies up shares of Colorado River water for each state — an improvisation to try to address one of the planet’s toughest water problems caused by chronic overuse and climate change.