In The News — Below are press stories about the ongoing drought in the west; information about the Southern Nevada Water Authority's "water grab" in Nevada and Utah; and other "mega" water projects that threaten the Great Basin.
[Note: Stories open in new browser window]
May / August 2015 —What You Need to Know About the Water Crisis in the West — Causes of, and potential solutions to the Water Crisis on the Colorado River — by Abrahm Lustgarten, David Sleight, Amanda Zamora and Lauren Kirchner, ProPublica, and John Grimwade, Special to ProPublica
August 02, 2015 — The Colorado River is crucial to the West's water supply – and harnessing it was a feat — Water supply in the West isn’t only about rain, or the lack thereof. A good deal of water scarcity issues have to do with decades-old policy on water issues and entrenched infrastructure. It’s a convoluted situation, and reporter Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica is part of a team that is working to make sense and put broader perspective on the Western water crisis and the central role of the Colorado River. Their findings are being reported in a series called, “Killing the Colorado.” — PRI
July 29, 2015 — I-Team: Former SNWA workers says they lied about Ranch costs — You may not know it, but everyone in southern Nevada has an ownership stake in a ranching empire located in east-central Nevada. The ranches were purchased years ago by the Southern Nevada Water Authority as part of its plan to go after billions of gallons of rural groundwater. The water agency spent tens of millions of public dollars to buy the ranches, and even more money to operate them. Now, a former accountant for SNWA alleges the water agencies have been lying about how much money they spend each month to keep the ranches open — LasVegasNow.com [Print - PDF]
July 29, 2015 — Colorado River conservation program could get financial boost — Water officials insist a pilot program designed to save Colorado River water and boost Lake Mead and Lake Powell is off to such a promising start that they are already looking to pour more money into it. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is poised to chip in as much as $1.5 million on top of the $2 million it already committed to the Colorado River System Conservation Program, which was established last year among the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the water suppliers from the four largest communities served by the Colorado — Las Vegas Review Journal
July 29, 2015 — Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduces $1.3-billion California drought-relief bill — Sen. Dianne Feinstein filed her long-awaited legislative response to California's water crisis on Wednesday, hoping to broker a compromise that has eluded Congress through four years of fallow fields and brown lawns. Feinstein's proposal would funnel $1.3 billion over the next decade to storage, desalination and other projects. Her plan is in marked contrast to one approved by the GOP-controlled House, which would pump more water to San Joaquin Valley growers by rolling back environmental protections — LA Times
July 29, 2015 — Drought now Californians' top concern, poll finds — Concern over California’s drought is “extremely high and intensifying,” as a majority of state residents now believe global warming has contributed to the crisis, according to polling data released this week. As residents struggle to meet mandated cuts in urban water use and state agriculture braces for up to $2.2 billion in losses this year, voter concern over the drought has now eclipsed worry over jobs, the economy and eduction, according to researchers — LA Times
July 27, 2015 — Study highlights new water-saving tool to help colorado river basin — CARSON CITY– A new study suggests that government entities in the seven-state, drought-stricken Colorado River Basin could save 40,000 acre-feet of water each year using a process called performance contracting to improve conservation efforts. Another 24,000 acre-feet, including 1,400 acre-feet in Nevada, could be saved by using the same process to install high-tech water meters, the study says. The savings would come about from additional conservation by customers, who would see their bills increase as their usage was more accurately measured — Las Vegas Review Journal
July 27, 2015 — Major upgrades in Colorado water plan — The ongoing effort to devise a state water plan is unprecedented in Colorado, but you only have to consider the drought in California to understand why a plan is so important — DenverPost.com
July 22, 2015 — Water's impact on the Southern Nevada community — LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) – Could there be a day when Lake Mead runs dry? Las Vegas is a city with an endless thirst, and there's a reason. Our tourism-based economy grows where water flows, but are the days numbered? “What would it be like to live in a valley with a dead lake? That new straw can pump so low that basically the river would stop flowing past hoover dam and into California,” said Howard Watts with the Great Basin Water Network. Howard is talking about the so-called "third straw" that's been trenched 3 miles under the shore of Lake Mead — News3LV.com
July 18, 2015 — Shrinking Colorado River is a growing concern for Yuma farmers — and millions of water users — The Colorado River begins as snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains and ends 1,450 miles south in Mexico after making a final sacrifice to the United States: water for the farm fields in this powerhouse of American produce. Throughout the winter, perfect heads of romaine, red-and-green lettuce, spinach and broccoli are whisked from the warm desert soil here onto refrigerated trucks that deliver them to grocery stores across the continent. If you eat a green salad between Thanksgiving and April, whether in Minnesota, Montreal or Modesto, odds are good that some of it was grown in or around Yuma — LA Times
How Water is apportioned in the Colorado Basin [graphic]
July 17, 2015 — Water managers dodge bullet with 'May miracle' rains — For drought watchers, it has become known as the May miracle. At a time when water levels in Lake Mead were getting so low that officials prepared for drastic cutbacks, it started raining. A series of powerful storms pummeled the mountains that feed the Colorado River, a key source of water for California, Arizona and Nevada — LA Times
July 16, 2015 — Less Than Zero: Despite decades of accepted science, California and Arizona are still miscounting their water supplies — DEEP BENEATH the bleached-out, dusty surface of the drought-stricken West is a stash of water sequestered between layers of rock and sometimes built up over centuries.
Officials in the Colorado River basin states have long treated this liquid treasure as a type of environmental retirement account — an additional supply of water they can raid to get through the driest years and make up for the chronic overuse of the rivers themselves — ProPublica.org
July 16, 2015 — Water officials seek grass-kicking new conservation message — "Get your head out of your grass"?: Yep, that‘s one slogan under consideration by the Southern Nevada Water Authority as it tries to refresh its conservation message, with the help of the world-renowned Las Vegas marketing agency that came up with "What Happens Here, Stays Here." The new campaign by R&R Partners promises to be just as edgy as the last one it produced for the authority, which featured an angry old lady kicking a wasteful water user right in his, um, drip irrigation system — Las Vegas Review Journal
July 10, 2015 — Colorado shies from big fix as proliferating people seek more water — It looks like the ultimate water fix: Build a huge reservoir by Dinosaur National Monument and divert much of the Yampa River, then pump back 97 billion gallons a year through a 250-mile pipeline across the Continental Divide to Colorado's increasingly thirsty Front Range — Denverpost.com [Related Information — SaveTheColorado.org ]
July 06, 2015 — Las Vegas completing last straw to draw Lake Mead water — LAS VEGAS: It took $817 million, two starts, more than six years and one worker's life to drill a so-called "Third Straw" to make sure glittery casinos and sprawling suburbs of Las Vegas can keep getting drinking water from near the bottom of drought-stricken Lake Mead. The pipeline, however, won't drain the largest Colorado River reservoir any faster. It's designed to ensure that Las Vegas can still get water if the lake surface drops below two existing supply intakes — AP
July 05, 2015 — California drought forces agency to rethink West’s water system FOLSOM, Calif. — Drew Lessard stood on top of Folsom Dam and gazed at the Sierra Nevada, which in late spring usually gush enough melting snow into the reservoir to provide water for a million people. But the mountains were bare, and the snowpack to date remains the lowest on measured record. “If there’s no snowpack, there’s no water,” said Lessard, a regional manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that built and operates a vast network of 476 dams, 348 reservoirs and 8,116 miles of aqueducts across the western United States — NyTimes.com
July 04, 2015 — Challenges to the Colorado River laid out at Ideas Fest ASPEN - Ranchers and farmers in western Colorado are incentivized to divert more water from the state’s streams and rivers than they need, an investigative reporter with ProPublica said at the Aspen Ideas Festival last week. Abrahm Lustgarten, whose series “Killing the Colorado” is now being published by the nonprofit news organization, said that Western water laws “have become so antiquated that they now actually undermine conservation. They actually incentivize people to waste their water and use it in inefficient ways.” — AspenJournalism.org
listen to Abrahm Lustgarten's presentation (20:45).
July 04, 2015 — [Calif.] Proposed reservoirs are no panacea for drought — The acute water shortages now hitting California have prompted many in Congress and the state Legislature to call for new surface reservoirs to reduce the impacts of future droughts. The reality is that new surface storage would have added only modestly to the state’s water supply — sacbe.com
July 03, 2015 — Summerlin’s popularity continues to grow despite valley’s dwindling water supply — You hear those snide remarks about Summerlin, about its unique “roundabout” road intersections, about the well-manicured, palm tree-lined streets, the upscale homes in gated communities, the parks, the jogging trails and so much more. Then it all filters into some imaginary or maybe envious reference to those “snooty” or “smug” inhabitants of Summerlin. But the stark reality is this: The 22,500 acres of land that sit at the edge of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, on the western rim of Las Vegas, form not only the most desirable master-planned community in the Southwest, they represent some of the most sought-after real estate by a growing percentage of home-seekers across America — RJ.com
July 01, 2015 —
Lake Mead watch: As the Colorado dries up, will tourism? — Before Lake Mead was filled in 1936, there was little water to be had in the desert ecosystems of western Arizona and southern Nevada. But that changed after the Colorado River was impounded behind the Hoover Dam, creating the nation’s largest reservoir. By the 1950s, when Bob Gripentog, 64, was growing up on the shores of Lake Mead, water seemed abundant. In less than 50 years, Las Vegas grew from 40,000 people to 2 million — many of whom came to play on the reservoir, where Gripentog’s family ran a marina — High Country News
July 01, 2015 — In Drying Colorado River Basin, Indian Tribes Are Water Dealmakers — Mired in drought and torched by one of the hottest years ever measured, the seven states of the Colorado River Basin are acutely aware of how a desert can bully water supplies. They are not alone. In this cauldron of collaboration and competing interests is a collection of players who are just as significant for managing and responding to water scarcity but attract much less attention: the basin’s 29 federally recognized Indian tribes CircleOfBlue.org [Interactive Map]
June 28, 2015 — Nevada water leader blasts Arizonans' anti-California rhetoric — How good are Arizona's legal rights to the Colorado River "if Lake Mead is at dead pool!!!!" asks Patricia Mulroy, the
former water boss for the Las Vegas area who has wielded enormous influence over the years over management of the
Colorado River and over Las Vegas' growth, water use and conservation — Tucson.com
June 28, 2015 — Lake Mead decline below 1,075 feet is symbolic — If New Year’s Day had happened last week, the Central Arizona Project would have suffered the first water shortage in its 35-year history. That’s because Lake Mead — where CAP water is stored at the Nevada border — dropped below 1,075 feet elevationlate Tuesday, and stayed that way off and on the rest of the week. That’s the level at which the federal government is legally required to declare a shortage on the Colorado River, curtailing deliveries to Arizona farmers including some in northern Pima County — Tucson.com
June 25, 2015 — California’s Drought Is Part of a Much Bigger Water Crisis. Here’s What You Need to Know: — Propublica.org
- Why do I keep hearing about the California drought, if it's the Colorado River that we're "killing"?
- Just how bad is the drought in California right now?
- What about a lot of rain? Couldn't that end the drought in California and across the West?
- What do you mean by mismanagement?
- Wait — don't we all have equal water rights?
- So where is all this water going?
- What is California doing to address its water problems? Is it working?
- Will California cutbacks alleviate the larger Colorado River problem?
- I don't live in California or the West, so why is this my problem?
June 25, 2015 — How A Historical Blunder Helped Create The Water Crisis In The West [Transcript - PDF] — This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. We've heard a lot in recent years about the drought and water shortages in the West driven, many believe, by climate change. Our guest today, environmental reporter Abrahm Lustgarten, says those shortages are as much the product of mismanagement of our water resources as anything happening in the weather — NPR [36.56 min]
June 25, 2015 — 9 sobering facts about California’s groundwater problem — With an alarmingly dry winter and California reservoirs dropping fast, groundwater increasingly is keeping the state hydrated. It now accounts for about 60 percent of California’s water supply. But unlike its rivers, lakes and reservoirs, the state does not consider groundwater part of the public good. It does not regulate groundwater like it does surface water. Landowners can pump as much water as they want — RevealNews.org