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Executive Summary for April 27th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including a feud on the Colorado River, boosted water allocations in California and an update on water storage projects.

Published on April 27, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Colorado River Feud Deepens

The city of Pueblo, Colorado, is backing out of a water conservation program in response to a dust-up with an Arizona water agency over management of the Colorado River.

Water Deeply reported last week that the Central Arizona Project (CAP) has been accused of “gaming the system” that’s used to equalize water levels between Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The CAP has publicly stated that it has not been “over-conserving” water with the goal of having more Lake Powell water sent to Lake Mead, from where the CAP draws its allocation.

The situation has angered Upper Basin states, which, along with Denver Water, sent a strongly worded letter to the CAP. Now, Pueblo Water says it’s withdrawing from a program meant to help conserve water in the Colorado River.

“The Pueblo letter confirms what Upper Basin water managers feared – that Arizona’s actions would dissuade water users from joining the conservation program,” the Nevada Independent reported. “The program, which is in its pilot phase, pays water users to conserve. The hope is that the conserved water, by not leaving the system, will boost the elevation of Lake Powell.”

The conflict comes at a critical time as Colorado River basin states are trying to negotiate how best to manage the river system, which has been in shortage for nearly two decades.

Boost to California Water Allocations

A March that saw snowpack triple across California’s mountains has meant a slight boost to water allocations through the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project.

This week, California’s Department of Water Resources said contractors could expect 30 percent of their requested allocation, up from 20 percent in January.

“Late precipitation and snow in March has brought us closer to an average year, however, this year has been anything but normal,” said Karla Nemeth, the department’s director. “While our storage is in good shape, our snowpack is low. California’s highly variable weather reminds us that prudent planning and water conservation is a necessity and is the new norm.”

The last time there was a 100 percent allocation was in 2006.

The Bureau of Reclamation also just announced new allocations for some Central Valley Project contractors. Contractors north of the Delta, in-Delta and on the American River will receive 100 percent.

South of the Delta, agricultural contractors will receive 40 percent and municipal and industrial contractors 75 percent of their historic use.

Water Storage Funding

A decision on which projects could receive a share of $2.7 billion in funding for water storage took a big step forward on April 20 after new information was released by the California Water Commission.

Under the stipulations of the water bond passed in 2014, projects eligible for state funding would need to meet qualifications for public benefits. After projects were given time to submit more information with their proposals, the Commission has deemed eight projects eligible for some funds, although the amounts vary significantly and final decisions haven’t been determined yet.

Among those vying for the biggest piece of the pie were an expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa Water District, which could get $422.6 million, and a new off-stream reservoir, Sites, in Colusa County, which could get $933.3 million.

The proposed Temperance Flat project was deemed eligible for only $171 million. Valley Public Radio reports that disappointed project proponents were hoping to get $1 billion of the $2.7 billion needed for the project.

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