Executive Summary for November 3rd

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including climate impacts on the Colorado River, Oroville’s big deadline and a move to halt a Nestle water plant in Oregon.

Published on Nov. 3, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Climate Change Impacting Colorado River Flows

Climate change is already taking its toll on the Colorado River. A new study from a researcher at the U.S. Geological Survey found that rising air temperatures are causing river flows to decrease.

“Since the late 1980s, increases in temperature in the [Upper Colorado River Basin] have caused a substantial reduction in UCRB runoff efficiency (the ratio of streamflow to precipitation),” the study found. “These reductions in flow due to increasing temperatures are the largest documented since record keeping began.” These temperature increases in the last 30 years have meant a reduction of 7 percent of the river’s flow.

This is not the first study to find that higher temperatures are to blame for some of the reduced flows on the Colorado River, which has also seen a drought lasting 17 years. In March, Brad Udall of Colorado State University and Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona found that one-third of the decline in flows in the upper basin was from higher temperatures caused by climate change.

Oroville’s Big Deadline

A much-anticipated November 1 deadline for initial repairs to the damaged main spillway to the dam at Lake Oroville was met, according to an announcement from California’s Department of Water Resources.

This is the first of many deadlines for needed repairs at Oroville, but an important milestone, which should help shore up the dam for the winter rainy season.

The agency reported that work will continue on “sealing drains, concrete seams and drain pipes, as well as site cleanup” and it will “continue work on the emergency spillway to complete construction of the underground secant pile wall … during the second phase of construction in 2018, we will place additional structural concrete on the main spillway and complete the emergency spillway buttress and splashpad.”

This news comes at the same time the state announced an overall safety review at Oroville.

Oregon Governor Moves to Halt Nestle Water Deal

A plan for an Oregon town to sell water to Nestle for a water bottling facility may have hit a roadblock in a move by the state’s governor, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Nestle has had its eyes on opening a water bottling plant in Cascade Locks, a town on the Columbia River in Hood River County. To thwart that effort, in 2016, 69 percent of voters in the county approved a ballot measure to ban commercial water bottling. But city officials in Cascade Locks, eager for the $50 million Nestle facility to be built, devised a water transfer to get around the ban.

“The transfer would allow the city to access up to 225 gallons per minute from Oxbow Springs to sell to Nestle and replace that water from its municipal source,” OPB reported.

Now, Gov. Kate Brown has asked state officials to halt the water rights exchange needed for the transfer. She wrote in a letter to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife that it would be an unwise use of resources because the water bottling ban makes “the ultimate goal of the proposed water exchange uncertain.”

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