LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — “Additional conservation is needed to protect critical elevations in Lake Mead and Powell in 2023 and every single year thereafter,” Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) General Manager John Entsminger wrote in a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). “Our moment of reckoning is near.”
Entsminger delivered the three-page letter Monday to the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Reclamation.
In the letter, Entsminger touts southern Nevada’s foresight over the last 20 years in implementing water conservation measures which include designing and building the third, lower intake from Lake Mead, putting in place the turf buy-back program, and overall spending $1.4 billion “to ensure our community’s access to water in Lake Mead even if conditions deteriorate to the point that water cannot be released from Hoover Dam downstream to the country of Mexico and to water users in California and Arizona.”
“We are working closely with river stakeholders to prevent Lake Mead and Lake Powell from declining to these depleted levels,” Bureau of Reclamation Public Relations Specialist Doug Hendrix told 8 News Now in July when asked if the BOR if there are plans in place to continue the flow of water downriver, around, through, or over the dam if the lake reaches dead pool.
“At present, Reclamation is working with major water districts and representatives of the seven Basin States to conserve between 2 and 4 million acre-feet of water in the next few years to avoid the potential of the reservoir dropping to this level,” Hendrix added. “Senior leadership from the Interior Department are currently negotiating with all Colorado River stakeholders to determine where this water will be conserved.”
Entsminger also reminded the two federal agencies the SNWA has been able to reduce the “consumptive use from the river by 26% while adding more than 750,000 people to our valley.”
“The Colorado River cannot provide enough water for the current level of use,” Entsminger wrote. “The math is simple, even if the law and politics are not: the bulk of the responsibility to reduce use falls on water users downstream of Hoover Dam, because that is where the bulk of the water is used.”
This statement is aimed directly at California and Arizona. According to the SNWA Nevada uses .3 million acre-feet a year (MAFY), or about 1.8% of all water used by the seven states and Mexico that are part of the Colorado River basin.
California uses approximately 26.64% and Arizona uses approximately 17.27%.
The federal government set a deadline of August 15 for the seven states in the Colorado River basin to produce plans to save 2- to 4-million-acre-feet of water. Entsminger wrote that delaying or ignoring action “draws us a step closer to the catastrophic collapse of the system.”
To finish the letter, Entsminger outlines 12 actions states should take to minimize the amount of water consumed:
- Create new beneficial use criteria for Lower Basin water users, eliminating wasteful and
antiquated water use practices and uses of water no longer appropriate for this Basin’s limited
- Develop criteria for managing facilities, reservoirs, and projects for health and human safety
operations in order to create certainty and predictability in the face of further reservoir
- Create a basin-wide municipal turf removal program to increase payments to customers
where publicly available programs already exist
- Expand agricultural efficiency improvements that result in consumptive use reductions
- Eliminate wasteful municipal watering of non-functional turf and require seasonal irrigation
schedules be implemented and enforced
- Invest in water reuse, water recycling, and desalination programs
- Purchase additional lands under the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation
Program to prepare for habitat restoration under a significantly modified system
- Incentivize conversions to lower water-use crops
- Charge each contractor for evaporation and losses in the Lower Basin so that the Lower Basin can reduce its reliance upon excess water from the Upper Basin to balance reservoirs
- Reprioritize Salinity Control Act funding to only those projects that reduce consumptive uses
of water, including fallowing agreements and the purchase of marginal lands
- Accelerate and fund necessary improvements and modifications at Glen Canyon Dam that will
increase predictability and reliability of releases under low reservoir conditions
- Prioritize federal funding for drought mitigation to those projects that provide meaningful
long-term and permanent reductions in use
Interior Department senior leadership will be announcing actions Tuesday it says will protect the Colorado River system including Lakes Mead and Powell.
It will also release the August 2022 24-Month Study, which sets the operating conditions for Lake Powell and Lake Mead for the upcoming year.
The Department of Interior’s event is scheduled to be held Tuesday, Aug. 6 at 10 a.m. PST.