California has cut off major cities in the Southwest off the waters of the Colorado River, sources said, before touching down on its agricultural supplies


In closed negotiations last week On the fate of the Colorado RiverRepresentatives from California’s strong water districts have proposed modeling what the basin’s future would look like if some of the West’s largest cities — including Phoenix and Las Vegas — were cut off from river water supplies, three people familiar with the talks told CNN.

More than 5 million people in Arizona are served by the waters of the Colorado River, which accounts for 40% of Phoenix’s supply. About 90% of Las Vegas’ water comes from the river.

The proposal came at an interstate session focused on an investigation Unprecedented water outages To save the Colorado River – a system that generally provides water and electricity to more than 40 million people in the West. For months, seven states have been trying to make cuts to prevent the river system from collapsing.

like The river shrinksHowever, talks to save it increasingly pit farmers’ large water rights against explosive urban growth.

California was proposing to follow the “River Law,” which gives farmers in prime agricultural areas first water because they have a priority claim set ahead of the rights of other counties — including California cities like Los Angeles, which receive about half From its waters from the Colorado River.

People familiar with the discussions said the eye-catching proposal drew a strong and immediate response from other state officials at the negotiating table.

John Enstemminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, who was not present at this particular hearing, told CNN that the proposal was a major public health and safety concern in western cities.

“If you want to model cutting off most or all of the water supply to 27 million Americans, you can continue the exercise but implementing that on the ground would have disastrous consequences for roughly 10% of the country,” Entsminger said.

Arizona’s chief water officer, Tom Buchatzky, did not comment on the closed discussion. But he told CNN in Arizona that officials would not consider completely cutting off their largest city and Native American tribes off the waters of the Colorado River.

“I wouldn’t agree, even under scenario modeling, or ask the federal government to model a scenario in which the Central Arizona project goes to zero,” Buschatzke said. “I’m not going to do this. The repercussions will be very serious if CAP goes to zero. Hard on the tribes, hard on the cities, hard on the industries.”

A source familiar with the meeting disputed that California asked for the model to cut the agencies and other cities to zero, but stipulated that if California wanted to concede other states’ demands, it also wanted to see an option follow the current strict approach to the river. Priority system as default baseline.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, California Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crawfoot confirmed that the state’s official proposal would protect basic water supplies for cities and communities across the West.

“We want to make sure everyone understands that California’s proposal prioritizes those essential supplies to communities,” Crowfoot said. “No one wants to consider the possibility that any community in any state does not have the water supply that their communities need on a daily basis.”

US Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Tutton last year called on the seven basin states — California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming — to figure out how to cut 2 to 4 million acres from use, or as much. 30% of the river water allocation. She vowed that the federal government would intervene if no deal was reached.

The question is who will bear the brunt of the unprecedented cuts needed to keep the Colorado River flowing into America’s largest reservoir. If the feds take over, it could set the stage for a tense legal battle — all while the nation’s largest reservoirs continue to deteriorate.

A source familiar with the meeting told CNN that Arizona’s perspective is that it believes California will let them “run dry and blow.” The Californian’s perspective, the source added, is: “We’ve fought for a century to maintain our super-priority, so why give it up now?”

After six other states in the Colorado River Basin I issued a motion on cutting off the water on MondayCalifornia’s water agencies submitted a separate, more modest plan to federal officials on Tuesday.

The state proposes to conserve an additional 400,000 acres of water — about 130 billion gallons — annually from 2023 to 2026, according to the plan. Overall, it seeks lower basin reductions by about 1 million acres per year, with California contributing 400,000 acres, Arizona contributing 560,000 acres, and Nevada contributing 40,000 acres.

It’s almost identical to plan Proposed state in Octoberr, and less than 10% of the state’s water allotment. California receives the largest allocation of the Colorado River out of all the basin states.

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‘Really worried’: Why a researcher fears Lake Mead might strike a dead pond

California’s proposal would kick in if Lake Mead reached elevations of 1,000 feet and Lake Powell at 3,500 feet — precariously close to those. “Dead pond” levels of reservoirswhen the water is too low, it will not return flow through dams.

California’s proposal mentions “increased reductions” if Lake Mead elevations fall further, but does not specify by how much.

A statement.

Adel Hage-Khalil, general manager of the Southern California Metropolitan Water District, said in a statement that the state is committed to the cuts, but “in a way that doesn’t harm half of the people who depend on the river — the 19 million people in Southern California.”

“We must do it in a way that does not destroy our $1.6 trillion economy, which is the economic engine of the entire United States,” Hajikil said. “The proposal California put forward today does all of this by equitably sharing risk among basin states without adversely affecting any one agency or state. The plan introduced yesterday, which shut down California, does not.”

California’s proposal is lower than the plan proposed Monday by the other six basin states, which caps 3.1 million acres a year. This six-country model also accounts for water lost to evaporation and leaky river infrastructure.

The six-state plan also proposes triggering it if Lake Mead levels are around 1,050 feet. Lake Mead is currently about 1,047 feet high and dropped to 1,040 feet last summer.

Multiple countries told CNN they will try to continue to get an agreement that everyone can support, while acknowledging that the talks so far have been difficult.

“We are committed to continuing to work together as seven basin nations,” said Chuck Cullum, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission.

Bushatzky, Arizona’s chief water official, called the six states’ proposal “a very positive outcome” and said he and others would try to continue talks with California.

“I am committed to continuing to work with all seven countries,” Puschatzky said, adding that additional talks and negotiations would continue “over the next few months.”

However, the collapse of the agreement between California and the rest of the Colorado River Basin raises the possibility that federal officials will make cuts of their own in the coming months. Buschatzke told CNN that federal officials haven’t shared much with states about how many cuts they’re targeting.

He said, “They did not share any cumulative pitch with us.” “I think it is essential that we know at least the pitch, and ultimately the exact number, because there will be less of a gap to close the necessary cuts.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct numbers in California’s water cutoff proposal.

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