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In The News — Water Grab News — 2017

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In The News — Below are press stories about the ongoing drought in the west; press stories also cover the Southern Nevada Water Authority's "water grab" in Nevada and Utah; and other "mega" water projects that threaten the Great Basin.
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April 21, 2017 — Despite Wet Year, We Need Conservation Across Colorado Basin &mdash ;record precipitation and snowpack in California, atmospheric rivers crashing across the Pacific Northwest and lingering above-average snowpack across Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. And while short-term relief is welcome, we shouldn’t break out the party hats quite yet. As Mother Nature often shows us, we never really know what is right over the horizon – we need to be prepared —

April 18, 2017— Lake Mead to get above-average flow of Colorado River water — The federal government plans to release an above-average amount of Colorado River water into Lake Mead this year, but it’s less than many hoped after a healthy snow season across much of the West —

April 16, 2017 — USGS finds vast reserves of salty water underground in California — A new nationwide study has unearthed the huge hidden potential of tapping into salty aquifers as a way to relieve the growing pressure on freshwater supplies across the U.S.Digging into data from the country’s 60 major aquifers, the U.S. Geological Survey reports that the amount of brackish — or slightly salty — groundwater is more than 35 times the amount of fresh groundwater used in the U.S. each year —

April 15, 2017 — Follow a gallon of water from Lake Mead to a Las Vegas tap —

April 13, 2017 — How Can The Colorado River Continue To Support 36 Million People In 7 States? — New Yorker staff writer David Owen says that convoluted legal agreements and a patchwork of infrastructure determine how water from the Colorado is allocated. His new book is Where The Water Goes — NPR

April 11, 2017 — California isn’t accounting for this major emitter —

April 2017 — American's Most Endangered Rivers, 2017 — The Lower Colorado River provides drinking water for one in ten Americans, nourishes cities including Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix, and grows approximately 90 percent of the nation’s winter vegetables. However, water demands are outstripping supply, and climate change makes the situation even more urgent — American Rivers

Ryan Webb, a post doctoral fellow with CU and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), battling fierce winds and snowfall, heads towards the 2nd of 3 research stations April 08, 2017 — Late March snow reversed early-season melt and rescued Colorado snowpack [NRCS report for April shows statewide snowpack at 107 percent of median]: Late-March snowfall in the high country rescued a flagging snowpack, buoying every river basin in Colorado above normal despite below-average precipitation for the month — Denver Post

April 03, 2017 — Trump, Western storms cast uncertainty on Colorado River — The situation last summer was as clear to accept as it was sobering. Prolonged drought had strained an already overallocated Colorado River, and nowhere was this more visible than at the reservoirs along the river. Behind the Hoover Dam, surface levels at Lake Mead, from which Las Vegas draws most of its water, dropped to a low not seen since the lake was filled in 1935. Water managers said states likely would face cuts to their supplies — The Las Vegas Sun [Print PDF]

April 02, 2017 — WHERE THE WATER GOES: In n 1976, when I was twenty-one, I spent the summer living in a rented house in Colorado Springs and working on the grounds crew of an apartment complex on what was then the outskirts of the city. During most of day, my co-workers and I moved hoses and sprinklers around the property, to keep the grass green; then we mowed what we had grown. Watering was like a race. The grass began to turn brown almost the moment we moved our sprinklers, partly because we were a mile above sea level in what is essentially a desert, and partly because the apartment complex had been built on porous ground, on the site of an old quarry. One night, I dreamed that one of the Rain Bird rotary sprinklers we used at work was keeping me awake by rhythmically spraying me in bed, and I made a mental note to ask my housemate not to water my room while I was trying to sleep — The New Yorker

March 28, 2017 — Stanford ranks states in the Colorado River Basin on water rights transfers — A new report from Stanford’s Water in the West program assesses progress among states in the Colorado River Basin with respect to environmental water rights transfers, a legal tool that enables water rights holders to voluntarily transfer their water to rivers, streams and wetlands to benefit the environment and potentially generate revenue —

Zack Colman/The Christian Science Monitor | March 27, 2017 — For water users on Colorado River, a mind-set of shared sacrifice A wet winter is easing water strains in the Southwest, but the longer-term outlook is generally hotter and drier. States now have that in mind in water bargaining. Jason Tucker’s job title is facility manager at the Glen Canyon Dam. But you could also say he’s also a kind of banker. Colorado River water flows into his bank – the reservoir behind the dam. He can then loan it out to create electricity. Some even call the dam here a kind of “savings account,” tapped as needed to replenish Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam, which lie past the Grand Canyon to the west —

March 21, 2017 — Colorado River losing essential water flow, new research shows — An increase in temperatures has the ability to reduce the flow of water in the Colorado River by 20 to 30 percent by mid-century, according to new research done by Colorado State University and the University of Arizona. The research done by Bradley Udall, a senior water and climate scientist for CSU, and UA professor Jonathan Overpeck, found that loss of water is driven by higher temperatures arising from an increase in greenhouse gas emissions —

March 21, 2017 — 10 facts about water policy and infrastructure in the US —

March 19, 2017 — Big snowstorms put Colorado River drought plan on ice — An unusually snowy winter in the northern Rockies has for now helped put the kibosh on a statewide plan to conserve Colorado River water to stop Lake Mead from falling too low. Future conservation efforts are highly uncertain. For many months, water agencies including Tucson Water have discussed a plan to save 1.2 million acre-feet of river water over three years to delay the threat of shortages to the Central Arizona Project, which brings drinking water to Tucson and Phoenix and irrigation water to Central Arizona farmers. But the snowy winter appears to mean that the river and lake will be flush enough this year to significantly reduce the odds of short-term water cuts even without a conservation plan —

March 08, 2017 — How water swaps help the West manage a precious resource — When a market for trading water rights opened in central Nebraska last year, one of the initial bidders wasn’t a corn farmer, or even a water user at all in the traditional sense. It was the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, a conservation group investing to replenish the region's major river, the Platte —

March 08, 2017 — Significant court victory towards securing the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ water future — Pasadena, CA – On March 7, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a landmark water case involving claims to groundwater underlying Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley in California —

March 07, 2017 — State engineer wants to tweak Nevada water laws — CARSON CITY: A bill to update technical aspects in state water law received only token opposition Tuesday in a Senate committee hearing. State Engineer Jason King told members of the natural resources committee that the intent of Senate Bill 47 “is to address issues throughout the water law that we believe need clarification, correction or addition” —

March 06, 2017 — Getting water to, from Blue Diamond Hill development won’t be cheap — The developer of Blue Diamond Hill can expect to spend tens of millions of dollars on infrastructure to provide water and sewer service to a proposed 5,025-home community, officials say. “And that’s a conservative estimate,” said Bronson Mack, Las Vegas Valley Water District spokesman —

March 02, 2017 — Nevada still in drought despite full snowpack — LAS VEGAS - The 2016-2017 winter season dropped plenty of snow in the Rockies. For years, the decade and a half drought across southern Nevada and the lower Colorado River Basin has impacted water levels at Lake Mead, creating what locals have long dubbed "the bathtub ring." Nevada is still considered to be in a drought, but the accumulation in snowpacks has experts hopeful about the health of Lake Mead. However, the state's not out of the clear — [Related Story]

February 28, 2017 — In arid Southwest, cities expand but use less water — LAS VEGAS AND PHOENIX : Mat Baroudi used to have a backyard of grass, consuming 55 gallons of water per square foot. Now it’s stone floor with a gazebo and a fire pit in the center. Jasmine, flowering plum, and Australian bottle trees dot the yard. Two tortoises, Blaze and Dmitri, bask in what passes for early morning cool —

February 27, 2017 — Sinking Land Crushes California Groundwater Storage Capacity — Unbridled pumping of aquifers in California’s San Joaquin Valley is severely reducing the land’s capacity to hold water, according to a Stanford University study. The loss of storage is due to subsidence, which is the compaction of soils as a result of removing too much water. The study, which provides the first estimate of the permanent loss of groundwater storage space that occurred during a drought from 2007 to 2010, also shows that California lost natural water storage capacity equal to a medium-sized reservoir. The losses occurred just as the state prepares to spend billions of dollars to build reservoirs to retain water, either above ground or below —

February 24, 2017 — Hot weather linked to climate change is reducing Colorado River flows, study says — Hot weather related to long-term climate change has been a prime cause of this century's chronic shortfalls in Colorado River flows, a new study says. This is the first study to formally link climate change to the river's declining flows, said the researchers, Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona and Bradley Udall of Colorado State University — By Tony Davis The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

February 18, 2017 — Wet winter has improved Colorado River basin's water forecast, but the drought endures — California is not the only place in the West confronting startling amounts of rain and snow. Drought conditions have declined substantially across the region in recent weeks, with heavy storms replenishing reservoirs and piling fresh powder on ski resorts. Yet there is one place where the precipitation has been particularly welcome and could be transformative: the Colorado River basin, which provides water to nearly 40 million people across seven states — LA Times

February 17, 2017 — Deep Rockies snowpack likely to forestall Colorado River water shortage — With snow piling up in the mountains that feed the Colorado River, the short-term outlook for Lake Mead has suddenly improved. But new research warns of more trouble ahead — Las Vegas Review Journal

February 15, 2017 — Why desalination alone won’t water the West — Late last month, a list of infrastructure projects purportedly prioritized by the Trump administration sparked headlines across the country. Several of the projects aim to swell water supplies in the West, including a controversial plan to capture groundwater beneath California’s Cadiz Valley, a venture to pipe water out of an aquifer in New Mexico, and a proposed desalination plant perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, in Huntington Beach, California. The nearly $1 billion desalination plant could be operating as soon as 2020, according to Poseidon Water, the company behind the project —

February 15, 2017 — Dam precious resource: Despite drought, precautions in place reduce threat to lake levels — Though the worst drought on record has been plaguing the Colorado River since 2000, the water situation for Boulder City residents may not be as dire as some people believe, according to multiple sources. Daniel Bunk, river operations group manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, Lower Colorado Region, said Lake Powell provides a buffer that has helped curb the amount of water lost each year at Lake Mead, which currently sits at about 1,087 feet, a low it hasn’t seen since 1956, well before the drought began —

Jason King, Nevada State Engineer February 14, 2017 — Water looming as key issue for Nevada Legislature — CARSON CITY: State lawmakers got a crash course Tuesday on Nevada’s complicated water laws as they prepare to consider several bills dealing with the most precious resource in the driest state in the nation. State Engineer Jason King, whose office has proposed four bills this session, said more proposed laws are expected, including one to address Nevada’s long-standing doctrine of “use-it-or-lose it” — Las Vegas Review Journal

February 14, 2017 — The West’s coal giant is going down — The smokestacks of the Navajo Generation Station rise 775 feet from the sere landscape of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, just three miles away from the serpentine, stagnant blue wound in sandstone known as Lake Powell — [Print PDF]

February 14, 2017 — Why keep the Salton Sea? — In 1905, an engineer gave California a lake. He didn’t do it on purpose; the cuts he made in a canal a few miles into Mexico burst open, releasing the full force of a flooding Colorado River into the Imperial Valley. For two years it filled a pit known as the Salton Sink, in southeastern California, until the government managed to close the breach — [Print PDF]

February 10, 2017 — NASA Improves Snowmelt Forecast In Colorado River Basin NASA is keeping track of dust that settles on snow in the Rocky Mountains. The research will help hydrologists improve their predictions for how fast the Colorado River will rise this spring —

February 09, 2017 — San Joaquin Valley continues to sink because of groundwater pumping, NASA says — California’s San Joaquin Valley continues to sink at an alarming rate because of groundwater pumping and irrigation, according to a new study by NASA. Ground levels in some areas have dropped 1 to 2 feet in the last two years, creating deeper and wider “bowls” that continue to threaten the vital network of channels that transport water across Southern California, researchers say — LA Times

February 2017 Vanishing Act: NASA Scientist Jay Famiglietti on Our Changing Water Future [Time 27.55] — conversation with Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. One of the space agency’s most intriguing ventures is what it learns by turning its view back at Earth. A perspective that—as it turns out—can tell us a lot about our changing planet — NASA

February 06, 2017 — Desalination of aquifers offers drought-weary California new hope — California’s historic drought may be winding down. But water officials across the Golden State are increasingly exploring a hidden but promising way to add to the state’s water supply: removing salt from the billions of gallons of brackish — or distastefully salty — water that lies deep below the Earth’s surface —

Tahoe, 2017 -- Photo: (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Grou February 02,2017 — Sierra Nevada snowpack is biggest in 22 years — and more snow is on the way — After a month of huge blizzards and “atmospheric river” storms, the Sierra Nevada snowpack — source of a third of California’s drinking water — is 177 percent of the historic average, the biggest in more than two decades —

A view from the Lake Mead side of the Hoover Damn. (PHOTO: Via Pixabay)February 01, 2017 — Shrinking Lake Mead Water Levels Could Trigger Official Shortage — Water levels in Lake Mead, which stores water for Arizona, California and Nevada, have plunged in recent years. If levels drop below a certain point, they trigger an official shortage. The three states are trying to avoid that. Federal water managers say there is a 50-50 chance water levels in Lake Mead will fall below 1,075 feet above sea level, or about 35 percent capacity for the reservoir. That’s the point at which federal rules will kick in mandating radical cuts in water taken from the lake —

January 24, 2017 — NASA measures 'dust on snow' to help manage Colorado River basin water supplies When Michelle Stokes and Stacie Bender look out across the snow-capped mountains of Utah and Colorado, they see more than just a majestic landscape. They see millions of gallons of water that will eventually flow into the Colorado River — —

January 21, 2017 — Western drought watchers keep wary eye on Lake Mead level — Arizona would be the first state to feel the effects of Colorado River cutbacks if the water level continues to fall at drought-stricken Lake Mead, an environmental advocacy group says in a new report. The Western Resource Advocates reached its conclusion as the vast reservoir behind Hoover Dam sits at 39 percent of capacity — LasVegasSun

January 20, 2017 — Early snowpack indicates ‘coin flip’ for Lake Mead shortage declaration in 2018 — Snow is piling up in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada, but this year’s first official water forecast for the Colorado River still predicts Lake Mead will shrink enough to trigger a federal shortage declaration in 2018. Federal forecasters expect the lake’s surface to drop by about 9 feet by the end of 2017, which would put it inches below the all-important shortage line of 1,075 feet above sea level. That would force Nevada and Arizona to cut their use of Colorado River water under rules adopted a decade ago — Las Vegas Review Journal

January 20, 2017 — Big unfinished business for Trump: Colorado River deals, the shrinking Salton Sea — Two days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell laid out a game plan for averting serious water shortages along the Colorado River. Jewell’s 10-page directive underscored the importance of concluding deals this year between California, Arizona and Nevada, as well as between the U.S. and Mexican governments, to share in reduced water deliveries to prevent reservoirs from falling to critical lows —

January 19, 2017 — Water district board OKs $150M installment on Lake Mead pump station — The Southern Nevada Water Authority board voted unanimously Thursday to throw another $150 million down a hole at Lake Mead. But this is no ordinary hole. When it’s finished in 2020, the authority’s low-lake-level pumping station is expected to keep water flowing to Las Vegas even if the reservoir shrinks to a “dead pool,” the point at which Hoover Dam no longer can release water downstream. For a community that relies on Lake Mead for 90 percent of its water supply, such access is crucial, SNWA officials say — Las Vegas Review Journal

January 19, 2017 —Tools for the wannabe Western weather prognosticator — Weather has taken a turn for the inclement all across the West. In early January, stormy weather crossed the continent from the Pacific Northwest to New England. Then another storm system froze Portland, forcing drivers to abandon hundreds of cars on impassable streets; swirled blizzards through the Sierras; and glazed the Great Plains in ice. Rain has drenched southern Arizona, and winter is not done with the West yet —

January 18, 2017 — Former water officials sentenced to prison in $1.3M bribery scheme —

Go To Water Grab News Archives — 2016

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