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Drought Plan For Colorado River States Not Yet Ready

The people who guide how much water from the Colorado River each state gets typically make a big announcement at their annual meeting in Las Vegas, which is being held this week.

But it doesn’t appear to be going that way this year.

Luke Runyon, who covers the Colorado River for KUNC, a National Public Radio affiliate in northern Colorado, said there were hopes that an updated Drought Contingency Plan would be signed this week.

The current contingency plan, which was created and signed in 2007, states that if Lake Mead, which supplies most of Las Vegas with water, drops below 1,075 feet the Interior Secretary would be able to put in place water restrictions that would force cutbacks in water use in a whole host of western states most notably Arizona. 

"What this new plan, this Drought Contingency Plan, does is it forces states like California and Nevada to make earlier and deeper cuts and share some of that burden that Arizona was going to have to burden by itself," Runyon explained.

The whole idea is to protect Lake Mead's current level. The plan is a way for river users to agree on conservation methods and goals.

Runyon told State of Nevada that the plan was talked about at last year's meeting of the Colorado River Users Association but because it was a good snow year and water managers were more positive about drought conditions there was no pressure to sign it.

Support comes from

But so far, the snow has not fallen like it usually does in the Rockies, which some believe might push water managers to actually sign the updated plan.

Runyon's coverage of the drought and the Colorado River is funded, in part, by The Walton Family Foundation.


Luke Runyon, reporter, KUNC

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KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR's State of Nevada