New push to shore up shrinking Colorado River could reduce water flow to California and Arizona
Photo: Courtesy, Colorado River District; Courtesy, National Park Service
California’s plans to put the water in its reservoirs and river to use by irrigating farmland have come up against an unexpected obstacle: an unexpected amount of water.
That has meant that the water that has been diverted from the Colorado River has not flowed down the Rio Grande toward the ocean, but instead has been diverted by the state of California on behalf of farmers in the state’s Central Valley.
In response, a new push is underway in Arizona — as well as California — to use water coming out of the Colorado to fill the vast reservoirs downstream (which, of course, will mean less water will flow to the Colorado River).
The plan is to use the water in California to add 1 to 2 percent to these reservoirs — or for Arizona (which is much larger than California), to add between 10 to 15 percent — thus, ensuring that the water that California takes out of the Colorado River will be diverted to the Colorado River.
The Colorado River flows through four states, but the water it delivers to the ocean ultimately flows through seven states. From the Colorado River, or the river it once flowed through the middle of our country, flows more than a billion cubic meters of water a day; nearly as much as the combined output of all the rivers, lakes and other water bodies that the United States produces.
The diversion of this water by states does not seem to be a big problem. But by diverting water out of the Colorado River, the states are depriving California and Arizona of approximately 1/3 of the water it uses to grow crops (which the states use for irrigation), 2/3 of the water it uses for household consumption, and 8/10 of the water used in its forests and other water supplies.
“If California and Arizona are able to use water taken out of the Colorado River to increase the storage capacity of the reservoirs downstream, they would reduce the amount