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Colorado river cutbacks in Arizona

Daveski

New Member
I agree with Dorado. I live in St. George. I just finished removing the last of my 1,500 sq. ft of sod and went desert landscape. Then I see this new home with 2,000 sq. ft of sod. This needs to stop at least this guy could have planted a tree or two CA3045A6-22E0-4DC3-A1E9-F91292EE22D4.jpeg
 

Cookie

Active Member
I personally think all new home builds in the Southwest, including Ca, should be required to have solar, no real grass lawns or an on site grey water system to water their lawns. We are out of resources to build more homes, time to require it to be done right.
 

Colorado Expat

Active Member
What this article makes clear is the the Lower Basin states are in just as desperate a situation in trying to keep Lake Mead at a reasonable operational level as the Upper Basin states are with Lake Powell. But even with the 7.5 maf that they are guaranteed under the Compact and will receive this year, they are still having to resort to progressively more extreme measures. The simple fact of the matter is that the Lower Basin needs more water than their current Compact share just to maintain the status quo. The proposed tripartite agreement, if it comes to pass, will stabilize Lake Mead, but at the expense of water delivery to agricultural users. As the article notes, “The deal would nearly double the reductions in planned water deliveries next year among the three states beyond those already planned under the 2019 agreement...” Those cuts are not inflicted on users in the fast-growing metro areas, of course (although the California Metropolitan Water Authority has graciously agreed not to skim off any spare allocation that the Imperial Valley manages to forego due to more efficient irrigation practices), but will instead fall on the farmers, who will be paid to let their lands go fallow. This might seem like a good deal if you are a farmer, since you keep on making money without having to toil in the hot desert sun. But most farmers I know would rather be out actually growing something than sitting inside just collecting a check while watching their fields turn to dust. For the US consumer, this simply means less produce at higher prices.

The cynical side of me says that Arizona and California are probably passing blank envelopes of cash beneath the table to the GCI, since these parties all have the same underlying goal – to keep Lake Mead full while draining Lake Powell – although their underlying motivations are very different. While that is probably not really happening – yet - it is clear that keeping Lake Mead at even life support levels is becoming more and more problematic. It may not be too long before cutbacks and conservation will reach their practical and political limits, and at that point the Lower Basin states will come looking for more water.
 

Ed_on_WD

Well-Known Member
I live in the inland part of SoCal. My city allows grey water systems. My biggest household water uses are the washing machine and tub and shower. These are plumbed into a cistern that pumps the non sewage uphill to irrigate about a quarter acre of native trees, fruit trees, and aloe that forms my fire break. Drinking water isn't used on the landscaping. No lawns in my neighborhood!

We're trying to figure out a companion system to gather what little rain runs off the roof to irrigate another quarter acre on the other side of the house. That won't work but a couple of months a year, but it's worth doing. Huge amounts of water run off the hill behind the house and onto the fire road at my property line, but that would require a Olympic swimming pool sized cistern, and I can't see myself ever making that happen.

Still, I'm trying to do my part.
 

drewsxmi

Well-Known Member
What I always find interesting/scary is that the Lower Basin is getting its full allocation of water from the Upper Basin, yet Lake Mead is still down at very low levels. Another way of looking at it is that Lake Mead is low because the Lower Basin is using too much water, while Lake Powell is low because the Upper Basin isn't getting enough rain and snow. Colorado Expat pointed out earlier that there just isn't that much viable agricultural land in the Upper Basin to use up all of the water. Anybody want to chime in with a graph of annual releases from Glen Canyon Dam since 1963?
 

drewsxmi

Well-Known Member
I live in the inland part of SoCal. My city allows grey water systems. My biggest household water uses are the washing machine and tub and shower. These are plumbed into a cistern that pumps the non sewage uphill to irrigate about a quarter acre of native trees, fruit trees, and aloe that forms my fire break. Drinking water isn't used on the landscaping. No lawns in my neighborhood!

Still, I'm trying to do my part.
Thank you for your contribution. In Utah it has been illegal to retain rainwater (rain barrels) for your own irrigation purposes, although they adjusted the laws to allow some amount after people raised quite a stink about it. Green grass lawns are required, although most of the cities didn't enforce the rule this past summer. There does seem to be a religious thing about landscaping, that "the desert will bloom like a rose." Cities will make all kinds of pleas about conserving water, but will not change the laws requiring green grass lawns. In the suburbs along the Wasatch Front we could cut our water consumption by about 80% if we didn't use it for irrigation.

We're also in the Great Basin, so any unused water either goes back into the aquifer, wasn't pumped out to begin with, or flows into the Great Salt Lake. We're due for major adverse impacts as the Great Salt Lake turns into a dry dust bowl.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
What this article makes clear is the the Lower Basin states are in just as desperate a situation in trying to keep Lake Mead at a reasonable operational level as the Upper Basin states are with Lake Powell. But even with the 7.5 maf that they are guaranteed under the Compact and will receive this year, they are still having to resort to progressively more extreme measures. The simple fact of the matter is that the Lower Basin needs more water than their current Compact share just to maintain the status quo. The proposed tripartite agreement, if it comes to pass, will stabilize Lake Mead, but at the expense of water delivery to agricultural users. As the article notes, “The deal would nearly double the reductions in planned water deliveries next year among the three states beyond those already planned under the 2019 agreement...” Those cuts are not inflicted on users in the fast-growing metro areas, of course (although the California Metropolitan Water Authority has graciously agreed not to skim off any spare allocation that the Imperial Valley manages to forego due to more efficient irrigation practices), but will instead fall on the farmers, who will be paid to let their lands go fallow. This might seem like a good deal if you are a farmer, since you keep on making money without having to toil in the hot desert sun. But most farmers I know would rather be out actually growing something than sitting inside just collecting a check while watching their fields turn to dust. For the US consumer, this simply means less produce at higher prices.

The cynical side of me says that Arizona and California are probably passing blank envelopes of cash beneath the table to the GCI, since these parties all have the same underlying goal – to keep Lake Mead full while draining Lake Powell – although their underlying motivations are very different. While that is probably not really happening – yet - it is clear that keeping Lake Mead at even life support levels is becoming more and more problematic. It may not be too long before cutbacks and conservation will reach their practical and political limits, and at that point the Lower Basin states will come looking for more water.
That’s an insightful analysis, and I really agree with the underlying concept—all seven of the basin states are in the same boat, which is to say a game of musical chairs where the chairs keep disappearing and the legs of the remaining chairs might be rotten.

California makes an easy target, especially if you don't live there, because that state has the largest share and they have historically used it. The state has 40 million people and tons of irrigated agriculture. They have political muscle and have used it historically, which I think is at the heart of what some people resent about CA.

But from the inside (and I live in CA, on the central coast about midway between LA and SF), it looks a little different. California is not a single entity and doesn't behave that way. It never has. It's too big. It's water portfolio is gigantic and diverse, and what comes from the Colorado River is a drop in the bucket considering the number of users. Unless you live in parts of southern California, or are a grower in the Imperial Valley or a few nearby areas, the Colorado River doesn't really figure into the equation. Where I live, for example (San Luis Obispo County), water supply is a combination of groundwater, a few local reservoirs, some State Water that originates in the northern Sierra, and a lot of recycled water for irrigation. One town has a small desalination plant and a couple of recycled wastewater plants are in the works. Ag is the biggest user, by far (wine grapes, berries, broccoli, and some other vegetables most prominently). Water demand is suppressed by requiring drought tolerant landscaping, low flow fixtures, and depending on the community, providing incentives for ripping out grass lawns. Some cities are flush with water, others are desperate to get it. Some of it is about geography, the rest is a function of how well things are managed.

So water in CA is often very much a locally managed issue, even if supplies often come from far away, depending on where you live. Just as it is with the other states in the Colorado River basin.

It's easy to point the finger at "Arizona" or "California" as monolithic bad guys, but its much more nuanced than that. But taken as a whole, can CA eventually wean itself off Colorado River water? It's probably better positioned than most of the other states to do that. To get a sense of the scale of how big a player CA is compared to the other states in the game, it's useful to look at the populations of those states in 1920 (just before the Colorado River Compact was signed) and today, 100 years later.

State Populations.jpg

So many interesting things there. Where to start? Well, in 1920, CA dwarfed all the other states. Nearly 60% of the total population of those 7 states lived in CA, and by 1950, that percentage went up to over 73%. In 1920, Nevada's population was about the same as modern Flagstaff, AZ. Hard to imagine. The only wonder there is how CA didn't negotiate an even bigger share than the 4.4 MAF of Colorado River water it ended up with. It's also interesting to see that CA's relative share of population in 2020 isn't much different than it was 100 years ago. The effect of Colorado River water on CA population growth as a whole hasn't been that tremendous, relatively speaking--mainly because most of the state doesn't use water from the Colorado River, and has grown from other sources. What's different now is that AZ and NV have really come from nothing and grown like crazy, especially since 1950. And the main reason for that is because of the Colorado River, and the way its managed.

Another way to look at the data is the percentage share of population between the lower and upper basins. In 1920, CA, AZ and NV accounted for about 67% of the population in those seven states. In 2020, it's up to 80%! Again, to some extent that's a function of how the river is managed.

You might ask, reasonably, in a renegotiation shouldn't the upper basin get a bigger share? But then you might ask, reasonably, does it really WANT (or need) a bigger share? Utah in particular has really grown quite a bit in recent decades, even without exploiting much Colorado River water. That state historically has had terrible water conservation policies--imagine what that state might try to do with a greater share of the Colorado River, even if it's just paper water. The message would be--let's grow. Population is political power, and that fact alone would make for some fuzzy math in their water management world. Which, one day, will lead to some horrible water management crisis and disaster. Best to save Utah from itself by not giving it a bigger allocation.

But of course, revised allocations between the states will mean nothing if there is no water to share. And the fact is, the average inflow to Lake Powell since 2000 is about 8.6 MAF, or less than 60% of the 15 MAF that the seven states are allocated (and let's not forget Mexico's 1.5 MAF). Even the wettest 20-year period of the late 20th century (1980-2000) only averaged 12.3 MAF. It's really playing a game of musical chairs with 8 players (including Mexico), but we only have about 4 chairs.

So it's a tough sled ahead.

If you're looking for encouraging signs, Colorado River water use in the lower basin states - CA, AZ and NV - is down considerably in recent years, especially in CA. Some is voluntary, some is through negotiation, but the trend is there. CA used to routinely exceed its 4.4 MAF allocation, even as recently as 2002. Since then, they're coloring within the lines, hitting a low of 3.84 MAF used in 2019. That's the lowest since Lake Powell has existed, especially amazing since CA's population and irrigated ag have exploded since Lake Powell was born. Obviously, the state is finding other ways to get water. The 1960s and 70s saw the expansion of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, two huge sources. And otherwise it's mostly groundwater--and that's causing massive problems--but it's not coming from the Colorado River so much anymore.

AZ on the other hand, hasn't scaled back much in recent years. AZ's share is 2.8 MAF, and since 1996, they've come close to that ceiling almost every year. That's gonna have to change soon, but they just don't have a real replacement. In Nevada, the share is tiny--only 0.3 MAF--and while they have historically been and remain consistently just under that number, the fact is that they just don't take that much from the river. So in spite of what you see in the Las Vegas growth boom, Nevada is finding other ways to mine water other than the river. Groundwater, yes, but to their credit they have more creative conservation practices than either UT or AZ.

What's the future? Well, you can't drink from a cup that doesn't have any water, no matter how many straws are in it. So you start with the low hanging fruit--better water conservation practices, and this will really make a difference in AZ and UT--two of the states with the worst records on that front. Recycled water for irrigation. Then there's recycled wastewater plants, both for irrigation and drinking (!), which is something that is happening in parts of CA right now. Desalination plants in coastal CA too, although that will take some money and political effort that a lot of rural coastal towns (or counties) don't have. But the Bay Area, LA Basin and San Diego have that kind of muscle, and it's starting to happen--and will accelerate in southern California as drought realities are more accepted by the masses.

And in the Upper Basin? Or even Arizona and Nevada? Those states have to work with what they've got. You can't grow without more water. And there's not a lot more water to be had, short of collapsing the groundwater aquifers. The West is mostly arid open land. Always has been. J.W. Powell recognized that whatever future reclamation efforts might happen, it would always mostly be mostly open land. It's time to embrace that reality.
 
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JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
Anybody want to chime in with a graph of annual releases from Glen Canyon Dam since 1963?
Okay, not a graph, but a table of inflows vs. outflows from Lake Powell, every year since 1964... But the takeaway relative to Lake Mead is that apart from gargantuan outflows from Lake Powell from 1983-87 and some big outflows from 1996-99, it's been pretty consistent through the years, usually 8.0-8.3 maf... and actually surprisingly high outflows from 2015-19... So the projected outflow of 7.48 maf in 2021-22 is going to be tied with 2014 for the lowest outflow from Lake Powell since 1964, when they really suppressed outflows in order to fill the lake. (Actually, 2014 outflow was 7.45 maf, slightly less than expected in the coming year). Here's the data:

Inflow and Outflow annually.jpg
 

airford1

Well-Known Member
If we don't get snow this winter, and next.......Vegas and Phoenix will be ghost towns.
California needs to take the lead and set a baseline for the amount of water that is used per person in the household. The system now just requires us to reduce the household usage by 15% less that last year. Well that has NOTHING to do with what we have been wasting over the years.
 

Bill Sampson

Escalante-Class Member
I agree with Dorado. I live in St. George. I just finished removing the last of my 1,500 sq. ft of sod and went desert landscape. Then I see this new home with 2,000 sq. ft of sod. This needs to stop at least this guy could have planted a tree or two View attachment 16099
How about turf instead of real grass. There are some turf lawns in my area in Arizona the look like grass without the water requirement.
 

Bill Sampson

Escalante-Class Member
Thank you for your contribution. In Utah it has been illegal to retain rainwater (rain barrels) for your own irrigation purposes, although they adjusted the laws to allow some amount after people raised quite a stink about it. Green grass lawns are required, although most of the cities didn't enforce the rule this past summer. There does seem to be a religious thing about landscaping, that "the desert will bloom like a rose." Cities will make all kinds of pleas about conserving water, but will not change the laws requiring green grass lawns. In the suburbs along the Wasatch Front we could cut our water consumption by about 80% if we didn't use it for irrigation.

We're also in the Great Basin, so any unused water either goes back into the aquifer, wasn't pumped out to begin with, or flows into the Great Salt Lake. We're due for major adverse impacts as the Great Salt Lake turns into a dry dust bowl.
When I lived in Orange County California, you could not have rain barrels.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
When I lived in Orange County California, you could not have rain barrels.
Times have changed in Orange County, it would seem...


Or this...

 

nzaugg

Well-Known Member
How about turf instead of real grass. There are some turf lawns in my area in Arizona the look like grass without the water requirement.
I saw lots of this in San Diego as well. Most of the new football fields are turf, but they still have periodic watering requirements. Of course, they are nowhere near as water intensive as a real lawn and it is mostly to clean things up.
 

weeds

Active Member
I grew up in Pinal County, Arizona (south central desert) from post WW2 to the late 1980’s.
Mostly cotton farmers...a few experimented with drip irrigation in the late 60's. Don’t know anybody there anymore but I know that county was the first to get hit with the reduced water thing from the Colorado (CAP). Several around Casa Grande are giving up or are about to.
Not good.

This observation won't help solve these thorny problems...but from looking at the Water Data Bases column for Lake Powell and Lake Mead:
In the last 14 days Powell has had an elevation loss every day except one.
In the last 14 days Mead has had an elevation loss every day except one.
It’s apparent the people who control the outflows of each dam are really tiptoeing along with this process. Trying to keep things even.
Tough job I think.
 

Richp47

Member
Until we reverse the old "rain follows the plow" line of thinking, and realize that the plow should follow the rain, things will get little better.

Yes, modern engineering and technology have gotten us a long way. But growing cotton and other such crops in the desert, when more than adequately hydrated lands abound back east, is a long term loser. Alas, powerful entrenched interests currently prevail.

Little progress can be expected unless you want to immediately stop all population growth out west, which eventually will have to happen anyway much further down the road -- barring some miraculous technological breakthrough.

Rich Phillips
 

Colorado Expat

Active Member
What I find both heartening and remarkable here is that people are having a wide ranging discussion on actions, both personal and collective, about how we can adapt to the new realities of water in the West. This is not really a dialogue that would have been happening thirty years ago, and it shows how the region has matured.

At the same time, one aspect of that adaptation may be a permanently smaller Lake Powell. The lake is not going away, since tearing down the dam is not a realistic option, and even at dead pool the reservoir would extend nearly to Bullfrog, given the shallow gradient along this reach. So there will still be a Lake Powell there for boating and fishing for the rest of my life. But a new normal lake level somewhere near 3540 is to my mind not out of the question. At that elevation the dam will still produce some hydro, and is able to buffer releases downstream to Lake Mead. At the same time, there is not much good argument to be made, except perhaps in huge runoff years, to be holding the lake at full pool in the future. That water is either needed to stabilize Lake Mead, or will be called on by the Upper Basin states for their needs closer to home. I think some of the recent actions by NPS involving Hite and Dangling Rope have telegraphed the fact that they already accept this reality. And who knows what sorts of conversations they have been engaging in with Bureau of Reclamation behind closed doors in DC that may be informing their actions.

JFR’s analysis of population is spot on, and his revelation that 80 percent of the people in the Compact states now reside in the Lower Basin is both edifying and terrifying at the same time. Also realize that in the Upper Basin states, the majority of their 20 percent reside in Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque or Cheyenne, cities that do not even lie in the Colorado River basin per se, although they get some water from it through trans-basin diversions. This shows how comparatively empty the upper basin of the river really is. The fact that the main stem Colorado River flows unchecked, except for one small hydro weir above Glenwood Springs, for over 300 miles from Grand Lake all the way to the head of Lake Powell, says quite a lot about Upper Basin demand. Except for the irrigation-fed oases around Grand Junction, Colorado and Farmington, New Mexico, there just are not very many people there.

The big driver of change in the Colorado River basin has been Arizona. When I was a kid growing up in Denver in the 1970s that metro area held about 1 million people, which was 15 percent more than Phoenix. The populations of both metros tied in 1980, reaching about 1.4 million each. Then after the CAP came online around 1990 Phoenix just exploded, tripling its 1980 population, while Denver only doubled its own. The CAP drove the breakneck expansion of modern Arizona, and we are now living with the consequences. For Denver, despite its proximity to the mountains, access to that level of water supply and associated future growth is increasingly drifting out of reach.
 

Bart

Active Member
That’s an insightful analysis, and I really agree with the underlying concept—all seven of the basin states are in the same boat, which is to say a game of musical chairs where the chairs keep disappearing and the legs of the remaining chairs might be rotten.

California makes an easy target, especially if you don't live there, because that state has the largest share and they have historically used it. The state has 40 million people and tons of irrigated agriculture. They have political muscle and have used it historically, which I think is at the heart of what some people resent about CA.

But from the inside (and I live in CA, on the central coast about midway between LA and SF), it looks a little different. California is not a single entity and doesn't behave that way. It never has. It's too big. It's water portfolio is gigantic and diverse, and what comes from the Colorado River is a drop in the bucket considering the number of users. Unless you live in parts of southern California, or are a grower in the Imperial Valley or a few nearby areas, the Colorado River doesn't really figure into the equation. Where I live, for example (San Luis Obispo County), water supply is a combination of groundwater, a few local reservoirs, some State Water that originates in the northern Sierra, and a lot of recycled water for irrigation. One town has a small desalination plant and a couple of recycled wastewater plants are in the works. Ag is the biggest user, by far (wine grapes, berries, broccoli, and some other vegetables most prominently). Water demand is suppressed by requiring drought tolerant landscaping, low flow fixtures, and depending on the community, providing incentives for ripping out grass lawns. Some cities are flush with water, others are desperate to get it. Some of it is about geography, the rest is a function of how well things are managed.

So water in CA is often very much a locally managed issue, even if supplies often come from far away, depending on where you live. Just as it is with the other states in the Colorado River basin.

It's easy to point the finger at "Arizona" or "California" as monolithic bad guys, but its much more nuanced than that. But taken as a whole, can CA eventually wean itself off Colorado River water? It's probably better positioned than most of the other states to do that. To get a sense of the scale of how big a player CA is compared to the other states in the game, it's useful to look at the populations of those states in 1920 (just before the Colorado River Compact was signed) and today, 100 years later.

View attachment 16100

So many interesting things there. Where to start? Well, in 1920, CA dwarfed all the other states. Nearly 60% of the total population of those 7 states lived in CA, and by 1950, that percentage went up to over 73%. In 1920, Nevada's population was about the same as modern Flagstaff, AZ. Hard to imagine. The only wonder there is how CA didn't negotiate an even bigger share than the 4.4 MAF of Colorado River water it ended up with. It's also interesting to see that CA's relative share of population in 2020 isn't much different than it was 100 years ago. The effect of Colorado River water on CA population growth as a whole hasn't been that tremendous, relatively speaking--mainly because most of the state doesn't use water from the Colorado River, and has grown from other sources. What's different now is that AZ and NV have really come from nothing and grown like crazy, especially since 1950. And the main reason for that is because of the Colorado River, and the way its managed.

Another way to look at the data is the percentage share of population between the lower and upper basins. In 1920, CA, AZ and NV accounted for about 67% of the population in those seven states. In 2020, it's up to 80%! Again, to some extent that's a function of how the river is managed.

You might ask, reasonably, in a renegotiation shouldn't the upper basin get a bigger share? But then you might ask, reasonably, does it really WANT (or need) a bigger share? Utah in particular has really grown quite a bit in recent decades, even without exploiting much Colorado River water. That state historically has had terrible water conservation policies--imagine what that state might try to do with a greater share of the Colorado River, even if it's just paper water. The message would be--let's grow. Population is political power, and that fact alone would make for some fuzzy math in their water management world. Which, one day, will lead to some horrible water management crisis and disaster. Best to save Utah from itself by not giving it a bigger allocation.

But of course, revised allocations between the states will mean nothing if there is no water to share. And the fact is, the average inflow to Lake Powell since 2000 is about 8.6 MAF, or less than 60% of the 15 MAF that the seven states are allocated (and let's not forget Mexico's 1.5 MAF). Even the wettest 20-year period of the late 20th century (1980-2000) only averaged 12.3 MAF. It's really playing a game of musical chairs with 8 players (including Mexico), but we only have about 4 chairs.

So it's a tough sled ahead.

If you're looking for encouraging signs, Colorado River water use in the lower basin states - CA, AZ and NV - is down considerably in recent years, especially in CA. Some is voluntary, some is through negotiation, but the trend is there. CA used to routinely exceed its 4.4 MAF allocation, even as recently as 2002. Since then, they're coloring within the lines, hitting a low of 3.84 MAF used in 2019. That's the lowest since Lake Powell has existed, especially amazing since CA's population and irrigated ag have exploded since Lake Powell was born. Obviously, the state is finding other ways to get water. The 1960s and 70s saw the expansion of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, two huge sources. And otherwise it's mostly groundwater--and that's causing massive problems--but it's not coming from the Colorado River so much anymore.

AZ on the other hand, hasn't scaled back much in recent years. AZ's share is 2.8 MAF, and since 1996, they've come close to that ceiling almost every year. That's gonna have to change soon, but they just don't have a real replacement. In Nevada, the share is tiny--only 0.3 MAF--and while they have historically been and remain consistently just under that number, the fact is that they just don't take that much from the river. So in spite of what you see in the Las Vegas growth boom, Nevada is finding other ways to mine water other than the river. Groundwater, yes, but to their credit they have more creative conservation practices than either UT or AZ.

What's the future? Well, you can't drink from a cup that doesn't have any water, no matter how many straws are in it. So you start with the low hanging fruit--better water conservation practices, and this will really make a difference in AZ and UT--two of the states with the worst records on that front. Recycled water for irrigation. Then there's recycled wastewater plants, both for irrigation and drinking (!), which is something that is happening in parts of CA right now. Desalination plants in coastal CA too, although that will take some money and political effort that a lot of rural coastal towns (or counties) don't have. But the Bay Area, LA Basin and San Diego have that kind of muscle, and it's starting to happen--and will accelerate in southern California as drought realities are more accepted by the masses.

And in the Upper Basin? Or even Arizona and Nevada? Those states have to work with what they've got. You can't grow without more water. And there's not a lot more water to be had, short of collapsing the groundwater aquifers. The West is mostly arid open land. Always has been. J.W. Powell recognized that whatever future reclamation efforts might happen, it would always mostly be mostly open land. It's time to embrace that reality.
Thanks for the charts and other details.

Cities like LA could install desalination plants. Thus, need to grab less Colorado, Owens Valley, and other river water.

-2- There are more than 24 major trans-mountain diversion tunnels from western to eastern Colorado under the Continental Divide. Thus less water headed to Lake Powell.
 
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