Feds may impose cutbacks on Colorado River water
PHOENIX – If drought conditions persist, the federal government reportedly will reduce water deliveries on the lower Colorado River as early as 2006.
A top water official said Friday that Interior Secretary Gale Norton will impose the cutbacks unless Arizona and the other six states that use the river’s water agree on a drought-management plan of their own.
The seven states were given an April 1 deadline to submit such a plan.
If Norton declares a shortage on the river, water will be cut first from the Central Arizona Project, the 336-mile canal that serves Phoenix, Tucson and Pinal County.
Arizona officials say any early shortages would affect mostly farmers.
A good winter runoff could delay cutbacks, perhaps for years, but federal officials say the states still must agree on a shortage plan so that future decisions won’t be made in the midst of a crisis.
The government also wants safeguards in place to protect power production at Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam in northern Arizona.
“The reality is here, and it’s time to deal with the shortages now,” said Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles, speaking at the annual Colorado River Water Users Association conference in Las Vegas. “We have no option, and if we have to, we will move ahead with a plan to reduce deliveries in the Lower Basin.”