The Colorado River, since the mid 20th Century, has been reduced to a trickle, once arriving at it’s destination in the Gulf of California, a mere 75 miles from the southern border of the U.S. and over 1,400 miles from it’s headwaters in the upper reaches of Colorado, and southern Wyoming.
The ever increasing demand for water has had it’s toll.
Seven U.S., and two Mexican states make up the Colorado River Basins 246,000 square mile water shed; each sharing the rights to this precious resource. It’s the largest growing region in the United States, with nearly 13 million people living within its boundary. Water Conservation is a major social issue in the Southwest, with good reason.
Without water, there would be no growth.
This Tuesday, November 20th, will be an historic moment for the future of the Colorado River, and most likely spur additional growth in the region, but further jeopardize any water from ever reaching the Pacific Ocean, again. The new pact, between the U.S. and Mexico, is an addendum to the original treaty signed in 1944, which allocated 150,000 acre feet of water to our southern neighbor. This allocation is equally divided between what California and Arizona receive from a previous split of the river’s water allocation through the signing of the Colorado River Compact in 1922.
Mexico has always been slighted, understandably so, by being the ‘Junior Water Rights Holder’ to all this water. In dry years, they receive virtually nothing, while in wet years, they are inundated. This happens due to the rights of the ‘Senior Water Rights Holders’ (7 U.S. states of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and California), and what is known as the Law of the River, which establishes allocation rules and is overseen by the Federal Government.
This screwy rule is what the Federal Government is using to scare it’s citizens to believe Rainwater Harvesting is illegal! Collecting Rainwater in Utah
What the New Pact means:
Currently, states which have used up their allocation of water rights, cannot obtain any more water, and those states that have not used their allocation looses out. What this means for Mexico, as stated earlier, is that in dry years there may not be enough water remaining to send downstream. The U.S. would use every bit of their allocation, and leave Mexico with zero.
But, what about the 150,000 acre/feet? Too bad…Mexico is a ‘Junior Water Rights Holder’ and has last dibs.
The new pact will create a ‘water bank’. Mexico would essentially store the excess water that would have been sent down stream in wet years, ON TOP of their 150,000 acre/foot allocation! This water will be stored in Lake Mead, which happens to be where Las Vegas sucks out 90% of their drinking water, but at a cost of $2.5 million for 23,750 acre/feet of water…and what a bargain!
This equates to just over $0.03 per 100 gallons of the wet stuff!
Follow the money and you will soon see that Mexico will be putting a stop to all this excess Colorado River water from flowing into the Gulf and banking it. This will be great for the multitude of water agencies looking for ‘new water’ and could actually create opportunities for new development and growth in areas looking for water sources.
Oh, and the lower delta? The agreement calls for a pilot program that will release additional water into the Colorado River Delta, south of the border.
Improving Mexico’s Water Infrastructure
I’m particularly excited about this aspect in the new pact being signed in San Diego next week. U.S. entities will be encouraged to invest in improving Mexico’s water infrastructure, and implementing water conservation technologies. These U.S. entities will then be entitled to a share of the water that these projects would save.
The cost of water will continue to rise, but not necessarily due to demand. No, the cost of water will continue rising due to the ever increasing cost to deliver it. Customers up-stream have an opportunity to partner with down-stream customers by holding onto, or banking, the water for future use. It only makes sense to store it upstream and let the law of gravity work for us.
Water Banks…the next big thing in Water Conservation!