New push to shore up shrinking Colorado River could reduce water flow to California
The state of California is experiencing an ongoing water shortage. The problem has been exacerbated by a series of droughts and is predicted to worsen over the next decade. This summer’s drought has resulted in severe water restrictions in the state, including some communities that rely on hydroelectric dams on the Colorado river. Now the state’s governor wants to expand the use of artificial lakes by allowing companies to build dams along the river that release water when needed.
The river runs through a large portion of the state, but because it has very little headroom it is not as productive as it could be. A big part of the problem is the fact that the river, and the Colorado, is currently being dammed three times. All of these dams were built after World War II, so the river only has a limited capacity to flow when it wants to. California has long asked Colorado River water users to pay for the cost of this increased demand.
“This may very well be the first time California or any other state is ever going to have the authority to raise money from water users for the costs of storing water for those who want to utilize the Colorado River,” said a source familiar with the situation.
This is really not possible right now as there are no plans on the table to expand the reservoirs at either Hoover or Hoover Dam. But what if, say, some group of water users decided to ask the state to build more lakes along the river?
If approved by the California legislature, California could get permission to build Lake Mead to the south of Hoover Dam. The lake would then divert water down the river to the Colorado, keeping it from reaching the ocean and from falling to the valley below, where it would be wasted.
The lake would provide more storage and would also help in managing the flow of water from the Colorado. “Lake Mead would expand Colorado River storage levels by 1.5 billion acre feet of water, bringing California and the federal governments to a level not seen since the 1940s,” said one water industry source.
The source noted that California could only pay a small annual royalty fee to