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Interstate highway water wars are getting hotter with climate

Aerial view of Lake Powell on the Colorado River along the Arizona-Utah border. The Associated Press / John Antczak Interstate highway water conflict is as American as an apple pie. States often believe that neighboring states use more than a fair share from cross-border rivers, lakes, or aquifers. Currently, the US Supreme Court has filed a proceeding between Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, and another proceeding between Mississippi and Tennessee. The court has already ruled the term in a case of fighting Texas against New Mexico and Florida against Georgia. Climate stress is causing problems. As temperatures rise, farmers need to use more water to grow the same amount of crops. A long-term severe drought will reduce the available supply. Wildfires burn hotter and last longer. Fires burn soil, reduce the ability of forests to retain water, increase evaporation from barren lands, and jeopardize water supplies. As a long-time observer of interstate water negotiations, I recognize the fundamental problem. In some cases, there are more water rights on paper than on moist water, even before taking into account the shortages caused by climate change and other stresses. In my view, the winner of the water proceedings is not guaranteed, so the state should focus on reducing water usage at least as much as in the proceedings. Western Dry Time This situation is most urgent in California and the Southwest, which are currently facing “extreme or exceptional” drought conditions. California’s reservoir is half empty at the end of the rainy season. Sierra snow packs are located at 60% of normal. In March 2021, federal and state agencies overseeing California’s Central Valley and State Water Projects, each covering hundreds of miles of regional water systems, issued a “significantly dark warning” about reducing farmers’ water allocations. Was issued. The Colorado River basin is plagued by a drought that began in 2000. Experts are divided on how long it can last. What is certain is that the set of rules, regulations and laws governing the Colorado River, the “River Law,” allocates more water to the state than the river reliably provides. The 1922 Colorado River Compact allocated 7.5 million acre-foot to California, Nevada, and Arizona (1 acre-foot is about 325,000 gallons), and 7.5 million acre-foot to Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. The treaty with Mexico has secured 1.5 million acre-foot, for a total of 16.5 million acre-foot. However, estimates based on annual ring analysis indicate that the actual annual river flow over the last 1,200 years is approximately 14.6 million acre-foot. The inevitable train wreck hasn’t happened yet for two reasons. First, Colorado’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, can hold a total of 56 million acre feet. This is about four times the annual flow of the river. However, drought conversion and increased evaporation are lowering the water level in the reservoir. As of December 16, 2020, both lakes were less than half full. Second, Upper Basin (Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico) has never used a full quota. But now they want to use more water. Wyoming has several new dams on the drawing board. So is Colorado, which is planning a new transformation from the source of the Colorado River to Denver and other cities on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Drought situation in the Americas on April 13, 2021. The most controversial proposal that US drought monitor CC BY-ND Utah bets on is from St. George, Utah, one of the fastest growing regions in the United States. And many golf courses. Water consumption in St. George is very high and water prices are very low. The city is proposing to increase water supply with a 140-mile pipeline from Lake Powell. The pipeline carries 86,000 acre feet annually. To be honest, it’s not a lot of water and doesn’t exceed Utah’s unused quota from the Colorado River. But six other Colorado River basin states protested as if St. George wanted their firstborn. In a joint letter dated September 8, 2020, other states will refrain from issuing a final environmental review of the pipeline until all seven states “agree on legal and operational concerns.” I requested the Ministry of Interior. The letter clearly threatened the “probability of a multi-year proceeding.” Utah blinked. The state, which had previously advocated a rapid pipeline review, requested federal authorities to postpone the decision on September 24, 2020. But Utah hasn’t given up. In March 2021, Governor Spencercox signed a bill to create the Colorado River Authority, Utah, with a US $ 9 million legal defense fund to protect the Colorado River’s share of water. One observer predicted a “huge and huge proceeding.” How huge is it? In 1930, Arizona sued California in a spectacular battle that didn’t end until 2006. Arizona won by ultimately securing a fixed quota from water allocated to California, Nevada, and Arizona. Southwestern Utah’s claim to the Colorado River water has created conflict with other western states. Proceedings or Protection Utah may seek other solutions before taking immediate action to bring an interstate dispute to the Supreme Court, which is under the court’s original jurisdiction. Water conservation and reuse clearly makes sense in St. George, which has the highest per capita water consumption in the country. St. George can emulate his neighbor, Las Vegas. Las Vegas pays residents up to $ 3 per square foot to remove lawns and replace them with native desert landscaping. In April 2021, Las Vegas went a step further and called on the Nevada State Assembly to outlaw ornamental grass. The Nevada Southern Waterworks Department estimates that there are eight square miles of “non-functional lawns” in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. This is a grass that no one is walking except the mowing person. Removing it will reduce local water consumption by 15%. Water right proceedings are full of uncertainty. Ask Florida. Florida believed that there was a strong claim that the diversion of water from the Apalachicola-Chatahoochee-Flint River basin in Georgia was damaging the downstream oyster fishery. The proceedings lasted more than 20 years before the US Supreme Court completed its final chapter in April 2021. The court used procedural rules to hold plaintiffs accountable to provide “clear and compelling evidence.” Florida couldn’t persuade the court and left without doing anything. This article has been republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by Robert Glennon of the University of Arizona. Read more: Don’t be afraid of why Wall Street investors trade California water futures. It won’t work anyway. Climate change represents several years of drought in West Robert Glenon, funded by the National Science Foundation in the 1990s and 2000s.