Beureau of reclamation calls for 2-4 MAF cut in 2023.

ndscott50

Active Member
Key Quote, "Touton said it’s critical to achieve the additional cutbacks and her agency is in talks with the seven states that depend on the river to develop a plan for the reductions in the next 60 days. She warned that the Bureau of Reclamation has the authority to “act unilaterally to protect the system, and we will protect the system.”

60 days for the states to agree to a plan to cut up to 4 MAF for next year. That is going to get real interesting real fast.

I do have a question on BoR's ability to act unilaterally. Does the Colorado river compact even matter at this point if BoR can make what ever cuts they deem necessary? Also from a legal perspective if the compact states that, "that the upper basin shall "not deplete" the flows of the Colorado below that necessary for 75 MAF in a 10-year period (or an average of 7.5 MAF per year) to pass downstream to the lower basin", does this requirement still hold if water is held in Powell at BoR's direction as opposed to this being done by the upper basin states?

Edit to add some perspective. If the full 4 million acre foot cut is required this would equal a 32% cut of water supply if Mexico participates or a 36% cut if it does not.
 
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smoke

Active Member
There is one thing that does not make sense. We need to cut 2 to 4 Maf. We already released 4.7 Maf. It means pretty much no more release or 1.3 Maf. What about power generation? No release no power.
 

bdn

Active Member
Reality bites. “80% of water utilization is agricultural / we can’t evacuate the cities”
Serious times call for serious measures. This is going to get interesting very fast.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
This is what they need to do. Glad to see someone is thinking. If the snowpack returns, great, but if it doesn't, and we get into a run something like what happened from 2000-04, and there is no cutback, it would be catastrophic to both lakes and those who depend on them. I recently posted another thread that explored the "what if" there was such a scenario (i.e., about 40% below average total water availability from extreme drought from 2023-27), and the conclusion was that to avoid a total disaster, there would need to be cutbacks in the range that is currently being proposed. Here's the thread for reference:


The Bureau is calling for a 2-4 maf cutback. That's a big range--it's a big difference between 2 and 4 maf. So what happens in 5 years if they split the difference and cutback 3 maf? That's basically a 25% cutback from existing use. And let's say you had 5 straight years of terrible runoff something like 2021, or maybe 2002? Really bad years. If that happens, and assuming Mexico follows suit and also cuts back 25%, and USBR holds back releases through Glen Canyon Dam to the 5-5.5 maf range each year, Powell ends up around 3510 and Mead just over 950 at the end of water year 2027. In other words, you still have big steady declines in both reservoirs, and you can barely generate power in either dam.

A 4 maf cutback would help. In that case, Powell ends up at 3530 and Mead at about 1005 in 2027.

So yes, we've got to plan for the possibility we have a repeat of 2000-04, and what is being proposed is a realistic look at what needs to be done. Hopefully not necessary in a couple of years if the snowpack rebounds, but if it doesn't...
 

Gunny

Active Member
It's about time. Push people into reality. This will make them conserve water and stop others from moving to the desert. I gave up on moving to Arizona last year when I realized how asinine it would be to move where there's not enough water to sustain a comfortable life.
 
One starting solution: In Utah, 82% of our water is used for agriculture and 18% for "people" - ie. drinking, watering lawns, washing clothes, golf courses, etc. Of the agriculture water, around half (40+%) is used to grow alfalfa that doesn't directly feed people, and around 20% of the alfalfa (or 8-9% of the total water) is used for alfalfa that is SHIPPED OVERSEAS to China and the Middle East. If, through conservation, we cut our non-agriculture water use in half, the cut would literally only equal what we use to grow alfalfa that we ship out of the country and that doesn't feed a single American citizen, directly or indirectly. I suspect the same is true for other states, as even this article suggested that of the 80% of the Colorado used for agriculture, the majority is used for alfalfa, some of which is shipped overseas.

So one starting point: Ban the shipment of alfalfa out of the country. That would free up 8-10% of the Colorado's water just by doing that. It is crazy that we are using our scarce water to feed cattle in other countries.
 

LP1

Active Member
Alfalfa is a huge crop in the Imperial Valley and a sizable portion is compressed and shipped overseas, including Middle East. Water right reform as it applies to agriculture is hugely needed, we are still using old timey laws made when Phoenix had a 10,000 people. Not sure what politician is going to step up and take that on though, hard work and not very sexy.
 

Colorado Expat

Well-Known Member
You can also look at this another way, which is that BOR is making a tradeoff between hydropower and agriculture, and stating that it can act unilaterally to do so.

There are certainly more efficiencies that can be realized in the agriculture sector, as others here have noted, but the fact still stands that there are a large number of alternative ways of generating electricity in the Southwest, most notably including solar in that very sunny region.

By contrast, there are limited alternatives for food production, particularly when events in Europe have seriously dented agricultural productivity on a global scale, causing potential shortages and significant price inflation.

Although the BOR is in the business of running dams, cutting water deliveries to agriculture in order to preserve a bit of hydropower, already diminished by low reservoir heads, might not be the smartest decision right now. This will probably get hashed out at higher levels before all is said and done.
 

LP1

Active Member
I just looked up some stats in the 2020 Crop Report for the Imperial Valley. It has 460,000 acres total irrigated. About 264,000 acres are planted in alfalfa, bermuda grass hay and sudan hay, or 57% of the IV. Hard to pinpoint the exact water need for these three crops, but somewhere near 1.5 million acre feet delivered annually. Plus lots of water is lost in the deliver system. It looks like ±30% of these crops are exported out of country.
 

LP1

Active Member
We obviously all need to eat and value our hardworking high-risk taking farmers. But the days of using the Colorado River to grow hay to feed steers obviously needs to change. Very inefficient use of water in terms of food production.
 

Outside

Well-Known Member
We obviously all need to eat and value our hardworking high-risk taking farmers. But the days of using the Colorado River to grow hay to feed steers obviously needs to change. Very inefficient use of water in terms of food production.
Half the west's water us used to produce 20% of the nation's beef.
 
We obviously all need to eat and value our hardworking high-risk taking farmers. But the days of using the Colorado River to grow hay to feed steers obviously needs to change. Very inefficient use of water in terms of food production.
Agreed. And even though growing alfalfa to feed steers is fairly inefficient in terms of water use, if it was used to feed people in the United States, it seems more reasonable. To use an increasingly finite resource in the SW (water) to export hay to the Middle East, only to have them ramp down production of oil and keep our costs high, seems more and more misguided. This seems especially so when the amount of Colorado water used to grow crops that are exports (80% agriculture x 57% feed crops x 30% exported = 14%) is around 2/3 of the water from the Colorado used to everything else that is non-agriculture.
 

John P Funk

Escalante-Class Member
that doesn't feed a single American citizen
But it does pay their grocery bills. Ag Trade is an interesting discussion, profitability and existing equipment drives what most farmers produce. Should they sell their windrowers and bailers, buy row crop equipment and grow soybeans for tofu, simply to feed "Americans"?
 

ndscott50

Active Member
We obviously need to adjust our approach to agriculture in the west. Of course, that is much easier said than done. Easiest approach would be to tariff the export of high water use agricultural products, drive up the cost for foreign buyers while mitigating the effect on US consumers. Unfortunately, the constitution rules that out – damn you 1780’s southern cotton growers!

Increasing the cost of water would help but that is really going to drive up to cost of beef, dairy and other products for US consumers as I suspect the Chinese and certainly the Saudis are willing and able to pay much more for alfalfa. No politician is going to want to do anything that can tie them to ten bucks a pound ground beef.

This leaves us with some type of export ban, which you can do on national security grounds. Of course, with the both the Russia situation and inflation situation already leading to rapid food price increases and risk of shortages the US is currently running around the world telling everyone to not put in place export bans on food. The whole dynamic of demanding OPEC pump more oil while simultaneously refusing to sell them food also creates some foreign policy challenges.

We are facing an extraordinary difficult challenge that will have significant repercussions for all of us. Dealing with this with our dysfunctional political system, where the idiots leading both parties will only focus on how they can blame the other for the problem, does not give me much hope.
 

Gunny

Active Member
We obviously need to adjust our approach to agriculture in the west. Of course, that is much easier said than done. Easiest approach would be to tariff the export of high water use agricultural products, drive up the cost for foreign buyers while mitigating the effect on US consumers. Unfortunately, the constitution rules that out – damn you 1780’s southern cotton growers!

Increasing the cost of water would help but that is really going to drive up to cost of beef, dairy and other products for US consumers as I suspect the Chinese and certainly the Saudis are willing and able to pay much more for alfalfa. No politician is going to want to do anything that can tie them to ten bucks a pound ground beef.

This leaves us with some type of export ban, which you can do on national security grounds. Of course, with the both the Russia situation and inflation situation already leading to rapid food price increases and risk of shortages the US is currently running around the world telling everyone to not put in place export bans on food. The whole dynamic of demanding OPEC pump more oil while simultaneously refusing to sell them food also creates some foreign policy challenges.

We are facing an extraordinary difficult challenge that will have significant repercussions for all of us. Dealing with this with our dysfunctional political system, where the idiots leading both parties will only focus on how they can blame the other for the problem, does not give me much hope.
Glad I'm old. I was happy to serve this country for four LONG years of my life. It was a different country in the early 80's though. Not sure what to think anymore. Worried about my three granddaughters.
 

ndscott50

Active Member
Sounds like the talks among the states are going well.......


Here is a fun quote from the article. "Tempers have flared, one senior official said, with urban districts from other states on Friday angrily demanding California, particularly its agricultural water districts, cede supply. Colby Pelligrino, deputy general manager of resources at Southern Nevada Water Authority, shouted and yelled curses at California officials. They responded by demanding Arizona and Nevada present actual numbers showing amounts they're willing to cut."

Crazy thought, but this seems like an important enough issue that we may want to move the negotiations up a few levels of the chain of command. Perhaps we should have a plan to get the governors together to work this out.
 
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