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North Carolina's attorney general balks at secret water talks with South Carolina

North Carolina's top attorney has rejected a call by his South Carolina counterpart to hold closed-door talks to settle a dispute over waterways that flow through the two states, according to a letter released Friday. Attorney General Roy Cooper said in the note that he wants the discussions in a commission appointed by both states to be open for public input. South Carolina's top attorney, Henry McMaster, had suggested in a December letter to Cooper that the two sides hold confidential discussions. AP/Businessweek 1/22/10

Utah governor ready to make deal for Snake Valley water sharing with Nevada

Utah and Nevada officials say they're ready to sign a deal splitting border groundwater in the Snake Valley despite opposition from members of a new Utah advisory board set up to study the plan. The Snake Valley Aquifer Advisory Council met Wednesday at the Utah Capitol to review public comments about the deal, which effectively grants Nevada the water that a Las Vegas utility wants for a proposed pipeline supplying the city. After discussing those comments, board members themselves voiced their misgivings but learned that a final agreement is imminent. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert believes the deal is needed to protect the rights of current water users in the desert valley west of Delta, said John Harja, board chairman and the governor's director of public lands policy coordination. "He is convinced that an agreement is better than none," Harja said. The next step, he said, is to declare an end to negotiations and have Utah Department of Natural Resources Director Mike Styler sign the deal. Herbert's spokeswoman, Angie Welling said the governor's support has nothing to do with Utah's hopes for Nevada's support of a Lake Powell pipeline. "This agreement is not being used as a bargain chip for anything else," she said. Salt Lake Tribune_ 1/7/10

2009

Nevada judge kills Las Vegas water pipeline plan

In a strongly worded order issued last week, a district judge overturned a 2008 state ruling that granted the Southern Nevada Water Authority permission to tap groundwater from three valleys in central Lincoln County. The project was the first phase of a plan to pump water through a pipeline from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas. Judge Norman Robison ruled that State Engineer Tracy Taylor "abused his discretion" and "acted arbitrarily, capriciously and oppressively" when he cleared the authority to pump more than 6 billion gallons of groundwater a year from Cave, Delamar and Dry Lake valleys. Authority officials are expected to challenge the judge's ruling, which spokesman Scott Huntley described as biased and "flat-out wrong." Las Vegas Review-Journal_ 10/28/09

Western U.S. water planning; Should there be controls on local governments?

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter says western states must work together on water issues if the region is to continue to grow. Ritter told the Western States Water Council, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Western Governor's Association that western states need to work with local communities to ensure water is available before new development projects are approved. Ritter said 19 states and 30 million people rely on water from Colorado. The theme of the meeting is "Water and Land Use Planning for a Sustainable Future." Roderick Walston, a water attorney from California, said previous water planning focused on quantity and quality, but California has now integrated those plans with land use planning and development. He said the issue is how to enforce it and how much power gets left to local government. "This will be the future of the West," he told the conference. "Should the courts make the ultimate call, or is it better to do it at the administrative level?" AP/Denver Post_ 9/29/09

Nebraska irrigators face water limits
Nebraska officials have put farmers in the southwest portion of the state on notice that in dry years water wells used for irrigation will be shut down to send Kansas more water from the Republican River. Farmers who have a record high corn yield waiting to be harvested this fall couldn't hide their anxiety as they pondered the prospect of drastic limits on irrigation in future years.  Main Street boosters worried about the ripple effect of less agricultural production from reduced irrigation and the related impact of declining incomes on families and tax receipts for schools. Brian Dunnigan, director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, told the crowd that the state can no longer allow itself to fall into the red in its water ledger with Kansas. The states faced off in a Supreme Court case over the river a decade ago, and Kansas is threatening to drag Nebraska back to the court for subsequent water shortages. Dunnigan said state and local water managers are drafting plans to ensure that Kansas gets its legal share of water but not a drop more.  Omaha.com_9/18/09

Utah-Nevada Snake Valley water sharing plan faces more public scrutiny

Concerns over a proposed water sharing agreement between Nevada and Utah have prompted a pair of meetings next week for residents to learn more about the draft Snake Valley Water Agreement. The Millard County Commission is hosting one meeting to air its opposition to the plan and detail its reason for disapproval. A second meeting is being organized by the Utah Association of Counties with the assistance of the Great Basin Water Network, which also opposes the plan that critics contend disproportionately allocates water in Nevada's favor 7 to 1. Under contention is the Southern Nevada Water Authority's application to tap water from the Snake Valley aquifer. The water would be piped for 285 miles to Las Vegas for residential use. Las Vegas wants to diversify its water supply, 90 percent of which comes from the Colorado River. The public comment period ends Sept. 30, and then the plan goes to both state governors for signature. . Deseret News_ 8/31/09

Download a pdf of the draft agreement

Utah lawmakers not sold on water deal with Nevada

Utah lawmakers voiced concerns Wednesday that a proposed Snake Valley water deal tilts too favorably toward Nevada and could harm the water and air in the Beehive State. "I don't believe a bad agreement is better than no agreement," said Rep. Brad Winn, R-Ephraim. Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike Styler gave Winn and other members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee a quick overview Wednesday of the proposal, made public for the first time last week. In particular, Winn asked for a more equitable division of unallocated water still in play, which under the proposal would be divvied 7-to-1 in favor of Nevada. Salt Lake Tribune_ 8/19/09

50-50 split? Utah-Nevada water deal draws flak

A day after Utah and Nevada officials released a proposed Snake Valley water-sharing deal, the Millard County Commission sharpened its attack on the plan and a conservation group sent a public-records request seeking insight into secret negotiations. On Thursday, Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike Styler said the draft agreement with Nevada would divide equally the water in the west desert valley that hasn't already been allocated. Millard County adamantly disagreed Friday in a 3-page letter outlining its discontent with the proposal, which the commission says gives away too much Utah water and isn't at all equitable. The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to build a 285-mile pipeline that would ship water to Las Vegas from Snake Valley, which lies mostly in Utah, along with water from other Nevada valleys that form the Great Salt Lake groundwater flow system. A 2004 federal law says the two states must agree on how to share Snake Valley water. Salt Lake Tribune_ 8/15/09

Las Vegas, Utah pipeline delayed

A growing and thirsty Las Vegas wouldn't be able to begin building a water pipeline from a shared aquifer with Utah until at least 2019 under a draft agreement between Utah and Nevada regulators announced Thursday.  The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to eventually start delivering rural groundwater from the Snake Valley, which straddles the Utah-Nevada line, to the Las Vegas area through a pipeline that could stretch more than 300 miles and cost up to $3.5 billion.  The pipeline could supply enough water for almost 270,000 homes and is intended to diversify Las Vegas' water supply. The area currently gets about 90 percent of its water from the Colorado River, according to state regulators.
The 10-year delay is intended to provide time to study the environmental impacts of pumping the water out of the aquifer to Las Vegas before public hearings on the pipeline can begin. Utah regulators were mostly worried the pipeline would allow Nevada to take water belonging to Utah.  MercuryNews.com_8/14/09


Colorado’s water needs get a fresh look in new reports
A new study by the state water planning agency has found that the amount
of water Colorado will have to develop by 2050 in order to meet population growth, economic
expansion and satisfy environmental needs is growing – along with projected costs. Between 2010 and 2050, demographers predict Colorado’s population will nearly double -
swelling from about 5 million to 10 million. The draft report, “State of Colorado 2050 Municipal and Industrial Water Use Projections,” is one of four new technical reports released by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. To meet consumptive and non-consumptive needs, Colorado will need to rely on a mix of conservation, agricultural transfers, and new water supply development and make substantial, long-term investments. For example, a new water supply project yielding 250,000 acre-feet will cost between $7.5 and $10 billion. This exceeds previous cost projections. News Release_ 7/30/09
The draft reports are available online at:
http://cwcb.state.co.us/IWMD/COsWaterSupplyFuture/

Western U.S. governors gather in Utah to discuss water supplies and other regional issues

The three-day Western Governors' Association meeting, which begins Sunday in Park City, Utah, is meant to allow governors to step outside of their partisan affiliations to discuss unifying, cross-state issues. Water supplies, energy development and climate change will be discussed. The association includes the governors of 19 Western states and American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Seattle Times_ 6/13/09

Idaho considers reviving Teton Dam
The Idaho Department of Water Resources plans to study ways to add 100,000 acre-feet of water storage in east Idaho. The study will consider rebuilding the Teton Dam, which failed in 1976, killing 11 people and 18,000 livestock. The state plans to split the cost of the $800,000 study with the Bureau of Reclamation. ASCE SMARTBRIEF_06/11/09

U.S. plans tougher California water restrictions

California farmers reeling from three consecutive drought years are facing further water restrictions under a federal plan to aid imperiled salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon and killer whales. The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a sweeping biological opinion yesterday, saying the species face dire environmental conditions unless irrigation from the federal Central Valley Project and the California State Project -- already at historic lows -- are curtailed even further. At the state level, the chief of the Department of Water Resources, Lester Snow, said the federal decision "further chips away at our ability to provide a reliable water supply for California." New York Times_ 6/5/09

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says federal government hasn't 'done its part' in support of Florida Everglades

Salazar, in a meeting with the Editorial Board of the Miami Herald, said Florida's Everglades National Park will benefit from stimulus money and funds in the 2009 federal budget. But, he said, "we have 80 years where, frankly, the federal government has not done its part relative to moving the Everglades funding to its potential. We have changed that and we are at the point of a new beginning." A video of Salazar's comments was posted on the Internet. In a story accompanying the video, the paper said since an $11 billion restoration plan was approved by Congress nine years ago, with the goal of splitting costs 50-50, Florida has spent about $2 billion on the effort, about six times more than the federal government. Earlier in the day Salazar, accompanied by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, made his first visit to the Everglades and, in the video, called the national park "a world heritage kind of place." Miami Herald_ 5/28/09

California agency changes course on water releases to protect delta smelt

A fragile truce in a long battle over an endangered fish took a hit last week as California water regulators urged the federal government to reconsider protections for the delta smelt. Lester Snow, director of the California Department of Water Resources, is questioning whether increasing freshwater flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect the tiny fish is worth the effort -- a reversal of the department's position. New York Times_ 5/12/09

Oklahoma lawmakers try to reach deal to sell water to Texas

Legislative leaders in the waning days of this year’s session are working on a measure to deal with a demand from a Texas water district for Oklahoma’s water. The Tarrant Regional Water District in Texas has filed a lawsuit to lift Oklahoma’s moratorium on out-of-state water sales. Millions of gallons of water flow unused out of the state every year, and the district wants some of that fresh water upstream of the high-salt Red River. Oklahoma already has lost two attempts to dismiss the Tarrant County lawsuit. Dallas joined the lawsuit in October. Trial is set for early December. The moratorium on the water sale expires in November. The Oklahoman_ 5/10/09

Federal aid for California's water woes

As part of the federal stimulus plan, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar offered California $260 million on Wednesday to patch the Central Valley’s decrepit water-delivery system and protect its threatened fish.  He also offered his good offices as a mediator in the fierce battles to come over how water will be allocated, and to whom.  The $260 million, to be overseen by the state’s Department of Water Resources, will be spread among various projects throughout the state’s complex water delivery system, which is often forced to balance environmental interests and agricultural and industrial demands. New York Times_4/16/09

North Carolina attorney general says let bi-state panel solve North Carolina vs. South Carolina water fight

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday a water rights lawsuit filed by South Carolina should be settled by a river commission already appointed by both states. Cooper said Tuesday that allowing the Catawba-Wateree River Basin Advisory Commission handle the dispute would save court costs. Legislatures from both states created the commission in 2004. South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster sued North Carolina in June 2007 in an effort to stop the state from taking water out of the 225-mile-long Catawba River. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. AP/MSNBC_ 3/4/09

December, 2008

Climate change, drought to strain Colorado River
Seven Western states will face more water shortages in the years ahead as climate change exacerbates the strains drought and a growing population have put on the Colorado River, scientists say.  Although there is some disagreement about when the most dire conditions will materialize, scientists at a conference in Salt Lake City said Thursday they expect less water to be available in the coming decades. Without fundamental shifts in water management, the result will be shortages and difficult decisions about who in the seven states the river serves will get water and who will go without, said Dave Wegner, science director for the Glen Canyon Institute, which organized the one-day conference at the University of Utah. "To me, it's not going to be a pretty debate," Wegner said.  Last year, officials from the seven states and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne signed a far-reaching agreement aimed at conserving and sharing scarce Colorado River water. The 20-year plan formalized rules for cooperating during the ongoing drought.  AP_12/5/08

Former Oklahoma governors say state should sell water to Texas
Two former Oklahoma governors said the state should set aside politics and reconsider its long-standing opposition to selling water to Texas — or risk losing its fight in court and basically giving the water away for the price of a permit. Former Govs. David Walters and Frank Keating said that they should have found a way to sell the water during their administrations and that it should be considered a commodity just like oil, gas and soybeans. The Tarrant Regional Water District in Texas sued the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Water Conservation Storage Commission in January 2007, contending that Oklahoma’s ban on out-of-state water sales violates federal law on interstate commerce. Fort Worth Star-Telegram_ 11/29/08

Arkansas and Missouri governors sign water agreement

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt ceremonially signed an agreement on Monday morning in which both states promise to protect watersheds and aquifers that cross state lines. The agreement calls for Missouri and Arkansas agencies that deal with water issues to meet at least annually, starting next year, and to produce a biennial report on the status of the agreement. Blunt and Beebe pledged to protect the abundance of groundwater that provides drinking water for a significant percentage of the residents of both states as well as cooperating on projects to improve the water quality in the rivers and lakes that is crucial for jobs and growth in the region’s tourism industry. KY3News_ 11/14/08

Potomac River pollution increases due to development: Study

Development in the Potomac River's watershed means that much rainwater now bypasses natural filtering systems and washes off of roofs, parking lots and streets carrying a variety of harmful pollutants, according to a report released today. In its second annual "State of the Nation's River" report, an environmental group called the Potomac Conservancy gave the river an overall grade of D-plus -- the same as last year's. In this report, the group focused on problems from "impervious surfaces," the concrete, asphalt and shingles that keep rainwater from seeping through roots, dead leaves and soil. They recommended that governments force new developments to clean up, and that new or redeveloped projects control storm water with "green roofs," rain gardens and highway medians full of water-absorbing plants. Washington Post_ 11/11/08

read the full report pdf

U.S. Supreme Court names Barton H. Thompson as special master in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota water fight

The Supreme Court appointed Barton H. Thompson, an outside lawyer from Stanford, California, to gather information in a dispute over water involving Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. Montana claims it is not receiving its share of water from the Tongue and Poeder rivers as spelled out in a three-state, 1950 agreement. Thompson will have broad powers to summon witnesses and issue subpoenas. AP_ 10/20/08

2008 a good water year in North Platte River system

The North Platte River System has more water now than it has had in eight years, but continued average moisture is required or the system will return to critical low levels, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. John Lawson, area manager for the Wyoming area office of the Bureau of Reclamation, said at a meeting Wednesday in Torrington that he had brought bad news about water levels for the last seven years, but at this meeting he could report that 2008 was a good year for water in southeast Wyoming. The increase was attributed to the heavy eight-inch rain in the Guernsey/Glendo area in late May. According to Lawson, as of Oct. 1, 2008, Seminoe Reservoir was 53 percent full; it was 22 percent full at the same time last year. Pathfinder was at 34 percent compared to 17 percent the previous year. Seminoe and Pathfinder reservoirs hold just over 1 million acf each; the whole North Platte System holds 2.8 million acf. Torrington Telegram_ 10/17/08

End of a California-Nevada water war

It is a historic day in the annuals of Western states water rights.The Truckee River Operating Agreement — in progress for more than 20 years and the result of 100 years of water rights controversy — will be officially signed in a ceremony Saturday morning at Reno’s Wingfield Park. The Truckee River flows out of Lake Tahoe in California, crosses the Nevada border near Farad, and ends in Pyramid Lake. The river, claimed by California and Nevada, has been used for recreation, water supply, hydroelectric power, irrigation, fish habitat and wetlands,among other uses. Its water was literally fought over in the 1920s when a drought caused Lake Tahoe to fall below its natural rim. Through the years, the fight has resulted in several legal decrees establishing usage of the river’s water. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe became involved when the cui-ui fish, its historical food source, became an endangered species. Years and years of negotiations, research and meetings resulted in the TROA. Once enacted, the TROA will replace the 1935 Truckee River Agreement, which has managed the bistate river and established rates of flow, water storage and the conditions under which Lake Tahoe could be pumped. Federal courts in California and Nevada must now approve it. Tahoe Bonanza_ 9/5/08

TVA to begin reservoir drawdown after Labor Day

After the Labor Day weekend, the Tennessee Valley Authority will begin an unrestricted drawdown of the Tennessee River system reservoirs, including Boone Lake, to reach winter levels. Because water levels of tributary reservoirs are well below normal for this time of year, TVA plans to continue releasing only enough water from the reservoirs to provide minimum flows throughout the system. As a result, tributary reservoir levels should drop at a slower rate than usual this fall. Although the rainfall during the past week provided some relief of drought conditions, levels of tributary reservoirs in the eastern half of the Tennessee Valley are averaging almost 15 feet below normal. South Holston Lake in Northeast Tennessee is almost 30 feet below normal and is already at or below the winter drawdown level. Water levels in the Tennessee River reservoirs are near normal because they have less storage space than the tributary reservoirs and because the main river channel must have water deep enough to accommodate commercial barge traffic. As part of the Reservoir Operations Study implemented in 2004, TVA restricts how much water it releases from the tributary reservoirs from June 1 through Labor Day, so there’s more water for recreation. Throughout the summer during dry conditions, TVA releases only enough water from upstream reservoirs to protect aquatic species and meet other downstream needs. Net News Service_ 8/31/08

Florida water district not trying to restrict drinking water use

The South Florida Water Management District is not trying to stop drinking water withdrawals from underground aquifers with a rule to reserve water for the environment, the district’s top water supply planner said Wednesday. The comments were made by Scott Burns, the district's water supply planning director, during a workshop to review a draft of the water reservation rule. The rule would apply to water flowing into the Picayune Strand State Forest because a restoration of the abandoned subdivision south of Interstate 75 is part of a broader Everglades restoration plan. Collier County utilities officials worry that a water reservation will put up a roadblock to the county’s request to withdraw an additional 8 million gallons of freshwater a day from the Lower Tamiami aquifer. The county has had an application pending with the water management district for the increased allocation since September 2006. Naples Daily News_ 8/27/08

Tunnels to bring water to parched Southern California

A massive mechanical mole surfaced on Wednesday from a nearly 5-year journey under mountains in the final stages of a $1.2 billion tunnel project that will supply extra water to drought-hit Southern California. The 3.8-mile (6.1-km) tunnel, 1,500 feet below the San Bernardino Mountains, is the last piece of a 44-mile (71-km), three-tunnel system that will bring an additional 650 million gallons a day to 19 million Southern Californians, water officials said. Twenty years in the making, the tunnels will almost triple the amount of water in Southern California's half-empty reservoirs when the project is up and running in 2010. The Inland Feeder, one of biggest water engineering projects in the state since the 1960s, nears completion at a crucial time in California which is facing one of the worst droughts in its history. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state-wide drought emergency in June because of forecasts of yet another drier than normal winter, record lows in some reservoirs and population growth. California now has about 38 million people, up from 32 million during a big drought 15 years ago. Reuters_ 8/20/08

Hugo, Oklahoma, signs agreement to ship water to Irvine, Texas; Court approval needed

After watching approximately 25 million gallons of valuable water escape each day for three decades and losing millions of dollars in potential revenue, City of Hugo officials took action Thursday during special meetings of both the city council and the Hugo Municipal Authority, to approve a contract for the sale of surplus Hugo water to the City of Irving, Texas. Thursday evening, Irving city officials also voted unanimously to approve the proposed sale. In order to move the contract forward, the City of Hugo made two lawsuit filings in the Eastern District Federal Court in Muskogee, Okla., Friday morning, asking the court to grant it temporary relief from what it alleges is a violation of the city’s constitutional rights under the Interstate Commerce portions of the U.S. Constitution and another action asking the court for declaratory judgement granting the city permanent relief from what it believes are illegal state actions. In the water sale agreement between the two cities, Irving has pledged to spend up to $500,000 to cover Hugo’s legal costs to seek relief from the state actions through the federal court. The 60-year contract could bring the city as much as $195 million. Hugo Daily News_ 8/8/08

Two Utah counties appeal ruling in Nevada water case; Las Vegas pipeline project could cause air pollution

Salt Lake and Utah counties have appealed a Nevada water official's decision to keep them out of a project that would tap groundwater under Snake Valley and the west desert to feed growth in Las Vegas.   Last month, Nevada State Engineer Tracy Taylor denied the two counties' request for "interested party" status, saying the counties should have filed a formal objection in 1989 to the Southern Nevada Water Authority's plans to build a $3.5 billion, 285-mile pipeline.  In a lawsuit filed this week in Nevada state court, the Utah counties allege siphoning water from an aquifer that lies under the two states to feed Las Vegas would cause vegetation to die. If that happens, winds could pick up the destabilized soils and send them in dust-storm clouds to a Wasatch Front already struggling with particulate pollution. Salt Lake Tribune_8/8/08

Southern California water agencies should work together to help off-set drought

A study released Monday found that local and regional water agencies and water companies must jointly develop a strategy to avoid water shortages now that the Southland's traditional sources are drying up. The recommendation was among the preliminary findings of a study, "Where Will We Get The Water? Assessing Southern California's Future Water Strategies," conducted by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation Consulting Practice for the Southern California Leadership Council, a business advocacy organization founded in 2005, and other sponsors. The study was designed to identify and compare water supply and reliability options for the region in light of the declining supplies from traditional water import sources -- the Colorado River, the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, and the Owens River. CBS_ 7/28/08

download the full report

Las Vegas urges early hearing on importing more water from Utah-Nevada border area

The main water supplier for Las Vegas, already allowed to pump more than 19 billion gallons of water a year from rural Nevada, pressed Tuesday for a January hearing on its bid for another 16 billion gallons from a valley on the state's border with Utah. But opponents of the Southern Nevada Water Authority pumping plan for Snake Valley said they need more time to prepare, and asked state Engineer Tracy Taylor for a hearing delay until late 2009. SNWA's application for the Snake Valley water is a key element in its efforts to start delivering rural groundwater through a 200-mile-long pipeline network to Las Vegas by 2015. AP/Salt Lake Tribune_ 7/15/08

Despite protests, Nevada official OKs water pipeline for Las Vegas

Nevada State Engineer Tracy Taylor on Wednesday ruled that the Southern Nevada Water Authority may take 18,755 acre-feet of water annually from three Lincoln County valleys that are part of the basin that includes Snake Valley in Utah. Taylor also declared that Salt Lake and Utah counties - which sought to be heard on the matter - won't be allowed special status during hearings on the Vegas pipeline proposal because the counties did not file official protests in 1989, when SNWA first unveiled its plan. The water agency considers both decisions victories, said spokesman Scott Huntley, though the water drawdown in Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys is by far the most significant. Though the water agency's original request was for nearly twice that much water, "that definitely was the number we were hoping for," Huntley said. Water experts say that the 285-mile, $3.5 billion Las Vegas pipeline could cause the basin's water table to drop far enough to kill off the vegetation that now holds the soil in place. Salt Lake Tribune_ 7/10/08

Moving water rights around in the west, a tradition that may be more profitable than growing crops

Washington regulators approved Ray Colbert's plan to sell 80-acres of apple orchards--and the water rights--so he could retire. Colbert lives in northern Washington and the buyer in southern Washington and the water rights just moved down the Okanogan River. If deals like Colbert's become a trend, local officials are concerned area farms will be nothing but dry land. Local officials are concerned about the implication for area farms. On a bigger scale, such trade-offs have been going on for decades, and underlie some of the west's biggest water fights. Northern California water is shipped to southern California for agriculture and drinking water; the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana is negotiating to sell its Missouri River water rights and Las Vegas is battling to import rural water so it can keep growing. AP_ 6/21/08

Las Vegas or Utah, who should get underground water?

As Nevada jockeys for water to quench a thirsty, growing Las Vegas, officials in Utah have spent about half of a $3 million budget to study valuable aquifers along the border. Utah Geological Survey researchers are midway through a project that involves digging monitoring wells south of the Dugway Mountain range and near Nevada's Great Basin National Park to study the quality, quantity and connectivity of aquifers that for decades have supplied Utah water rights holders. Western water historically has gone to whomever began using it first. Monitoring will continue, with results up until now showing that two aquifers studied are flowing from one to the other and that the quality is good. Jordan said they'll be looking closely at how spring runoff impacts the volume of those aquifers, which have yet to be tested by any large-scale pumping project. Deseret News_ 6/7/08

Republican River states 'have issues'

Disputes between Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado, the three members of the 1943 Republican River Compact, will be placed in the hands of an arbitrator. A settlement agreement for the Kansas v. Nebraska lawsuit gave each state the right to seek nonbinding arbitration. It’s a required step before the case could be returned to the U.S. Supreme Court for resolution. Tri-Basin Natural Resources District General Manager John Thorburn of Holdrege, who attended this week’s compact administration meeting in Lincoln, said all three states agreed Friday to invoke the right to arbitration “because each state has issues." A resolution approved Friday by the three compact administration commissioners, one from each state, outlines the issues: Kansas wants Nebraska to stop overusing its compact allocations, Nebraska disagrees with its water credits and other compact accounting procedures, and Colorado wants approval of its compact compliance plan. Kearney Hub_ 5/17/08

Could Florida's drought be over by year's end?

Don't crank up the lawn sprinklers yet, but state water officials say they see signs that Florida's latest drought — which has been going on since 2006 — may finally be easing up. Florida's wet season typically begins in late May or early June and continues for about five months through Nov. 1, producing two-thirds of South Florida's annual rainfall. "The outlook is much more optimistic (for the rainy season) than it was this time last year," said Ben Nelson, state meteorologist for the Division of Emergency Management. "If we have a typical wet season, we should be out of the drought by the end of the year." For the past 22 months, Florida's skies have been mostly dry. So during 2006 and 2007, when the Tampa Bay region should have received 53 inches of rain a year, only 43 inches fell in 2006 and 41 inches in 2007. Meanwhile South Florida's counties saw the driest consecutive years in the region since recordkeeping began in 1932. Statewide, the "rainfall deficit" is the largest since the mid 1950s, according to the state Department of Emergency Management. St. Petersburg Times_ 5/12/08

Colorado legislators approve $60.6 million Republican River pipeline loan

Colorado lawmakers, who end their 2008 legislative session this week, approved a $60.6 million loan to eastern Colorado farmers to build a compact-compliance pipeline that will deliver Republican River water to the state line. They also endorsed spending upwards of $15 million to meet the three-state agreement on protecting endangered species along the South Platte River and preventing the spread of zebra mussels from Pueblo Reservoir to other Colorado lakes and ponds. And anyone who wants to donate a water right to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to improve in-stream flow for recreation and fish habitat can now do so under the Healthy Rivers Act that Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law last month. But northeastern Colorado’s lawmakers couldn’t overcome long-held grievances over past well depletions from the South Platte River to help Front Range farmers take advantage of this winter’s heavy snowpack. A late bill that would have allowed the well users to irrigate and augment at the same time never made it out of committee. Journal-Advocate_ 5/6/08

San Antonio, Texas, Water System (SAWS) agrees to share regional scientific data for groundwater desalination plant

San Antonio Water System (SAWS) formed a new regional science advisory committee with officials from Bexar and Atascosa counties to jointly examine data related to SAWS' planned brackish groundwater desalination project. Following a meeting between San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Atascosa County Judge Diane Bautista, elected officials and water purveyors agreed to review scientific findings together. The elected officials want to work with SAWS to ensure that the project does not adversely affect local water supplies in the Carrizo Aquifer or the much deeper Wilcox Aquifer from which the brackish water will be drawn. Brackish water has too high a salt content to be drunk. By removing the high salt content, SAWS believes that it may be able to tap into a new source of potable drinking water for the region. The committee's goal is to ensure that Atascosa County residents have their questions answered adequately and openly regarding the project. The proposed plant has an estimated price tag of $299 million. SAWS provides water and waste water services to more than 1 million residents in the San Antonio area. San Antonio Business Journal_ 3/25/08

Officials prepare to buy more water for the Republican River

Groundwork is being laid for possible use of surface water to enhance Republican River flows this year, if water supply forecasts predict that 2008 will be a water-short year. Directors of Nebraska's Lower Republican Natural Resources District were told at their Alma meeting Thursday that state Department of Natural Resources officials are talking to representatives of three irrigation districts upstream of Harlan County Dam about water purchases or a delay in deliveries to farmers. Those measures won’t be needed if federal Bureau of Reclamation estimates of lake levels in the basin at the start of irrigation season are accurate and this isn’t a water-short year. As of Wednesday, Harlan County Lake was at 87 percent of capacity — about 3 feet from full — and up 13 feet from the same time in 2007. Only Lake Bonny in Colorado and Keith Sebelius Lake at Norton, Kan., are lower now than a year ago. The Republican River begins in Colorado and cuts across Nebraska and Kansas. Kearney Hub_ 3/14/08

Lower Colorado River Authority and its critics wrangle over its mission: Is the LCRA obligated to sell water to all comers?

For decades, the Lower Colorado River Authority has insisted that it is obliged to sell its water to all comers as long as the supply in the river and the Highland Lakes holds out. The issue is fundamental to the issue of growth in Central Texas, where it will go and how — or whether — it will be managed. Traditionally, the vast majority of its water is sold "raw" — untreated — and in large quantities to cities such as Austin, developers, industrial plants and farmers. Since the 1990s, the LCRA has also treated and sold water on a retail basis to subdivisions, country clubs and the like, delivered by water lines from the river authority's treatment facilities, now scattered over 11 counties. Because some feed suburban sprawl, these systems are the LCRA's most controversial water enterprises. They also might be the least defensible. Austin American-Statesman_ 3/3/08

February, 2008

Federal funding for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence restoration lags far behind local investment, new report finds

A report released today by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) and funded by the Joyce Foundation, concludes that local governments in the U.S. and Canada invest an estimated $15 billion annually to protect and restore the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, but cannot keep pace with the one-two punch of escalating threats to the resource and ongoing cuts in federal restoration programs. “This report clearly demonstrates that our cities and other communities are ready and willing partners in the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence ecosystem,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, chair of the Great Lakes Commission. “Their contributions at the local level play a key role in the environmental health and well-being of the entire system, and they need and deserve federal support in those efforts." The report is expected to build support in the United States for federal legislation to implement recommendations of the 2005 Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes – the product of a year-long initiative among federal, state and local governments, tribes and other stakeholders that was established by a presidential executive order. Among the Strategy’s foremost recommendations to protect and restore the Great Lakes is increased federal investment in storm-and wastewater treatment, to supplement the substantial local investment documented in the report. News Release_ 2/27/08

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle turns up heat to get Great Lakes water compact passed

Speaking near the shore of Lake Michigan at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's WATER Institute, Doyle accused Assembly leadership of playing political games with what he considers Wisconsin's best chance to both protect and capitalize on the state's grandest natural resource. The compact is an agreement all eight Great Lakes governors signed in Milwaukee over two years ago that essentially blocks new water diversions outside the Great Lakes basin, with limited exceptions for communities and counties that straddle the basin dividing line. The compact requires approval from all state legislatures and Congress before it becomes law, and has already been approved by four state legislatures. Journal-Sentinel_ 2/22/08

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signs Great Lakes water-use compact

The measure allows Indiana to join a regional compact intended to prevent water-needy states from tapping into the Great Lakes. The General Assembly had passed the bill that protects water from being siphoned out of the watershed surrounding the five Great Lakes to drought-stricken states or areas that need water for growth. Indiana lies in the Lake Michigan and Lake Erie watersheds. After all the affected states enact it, Congress must ratify it. Minnesota and Illinois have also ratified the agreement. The Ohio House signed off on a version of the compact on Tuesday and sent it to the Senate, which is set to begin hearings. Some Ohio Senate leaders said they are concerned that the wording of the bill opens up private property across the northern part of that state to government control. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have approved separate but similar agreements. AP/Louisville Courier-Journal_ 2/21/08

Regional plan to protect U.S. Great Lakes water hitting a snag

Two Great Lakes states have balked at an agreement that would keep outsiders from siphoning off the lakes' water, raising fears that the long-sought water plan could be in danger. Proponents tried Monday to regain momentum for the water-use agreement, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. Unless the eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces abutting the lakes unanimously enact the agreement, it will be non-binding. The pact also needs to be approved by the U.S. and Canada governments. Building that kind of consensus is difficult. It took governors and resources advocates more than four years just to write the Great Lakes water-use plan in 2005, then years more for a handful of state legislatures to sign on. Only Illinois and Minnesota have ratified the pact. This month, Indiana and New York entered the home stretch after the plan was approved by the legislatures and is awaiting the governors' signatures. But last week, proponents say, Wisconsin and Ohio threw a wrench in the works. Chicago Tribune_ 2/18/08

Regional Florida water managers want new homes near Miami rejected

Regional water managers say Miami-Dade County doesn't have enough water to support new homes, offices and a big-box hardware store proposed at the county's western fringes. The South Florida Water Management District, citing an ''inadequate'' supply that won't be bolstered for years by planned new alternative sources, wants state regulators to reject three projects proposed beyond the Urban Development Boundary -- the imaginary line limiting westward suburban sprawl to protect farmland, the Everglades and other sensitive open lands. ''If you move the UDB, you're creating a new population area,'' said Eric Buermann, chair of the district's governing board. ``What you're really doing is taking water supplies away from other infill areas in the county." Only three months ago, water managers granted Miami-Dade a permit intended to meet water needs over the next two decades -- but Buermann said moving the line was never discussed or contemplated during years of negotiations with the county. To get the long-term permit, Miami-Dade committed to a $1.6 billion overhaul of a water supply system that has largely relied for decades on the cheap, clean Biscayne Aquifer. Under the district permit, Miami-Dade can pump up to 60 million more gallons a day by 2027 -- but most of the additional water must come from ''alternative'' sources, meaning recycled wastewater and deeper underground aquifers. Miami Herald_ 2/9/08

Nevada: Arguments continue over Las Vegas plan to import rural water

Backers and foes of a plan to pump billions of gallons of water to booming Las Vegas differed Thursday over the economic prospects of the rural Nevada valleys that would have to give up the water. Proponents of the Southern Nevada Water Authority plan to draw more than 11.3 billion gallons of groundwater a year from Delamar, Dry Lake and Cave valleys maintained that a population boom in the isolated area is unlikely no matter what. Foes of the proposed pumping, part of SNWA's $2 billion-plus project to pipe water across the water to Las Vegas, countered that growth has occurred before in the areas and can again -- but only if there's available groundwater for development. The project is backed by casino executives, developers, union representatives and others who point to water conservation efforts in the Las Vegas area and who warn of an economic downturn affecting the entire state unless the city has enough water to keep growing. The project is opposed by the Great Basin Water Network, a group of ranchers and farmers, local irrigation companies, a water board, the Sierra Club, Nevada Cattlemen's Association and White Pine County which borders the county where the valleys are located. The valleys are all in central Lincoln County, which initially opposed the plan but reached an agreement with the water authority that states which groundwater basins can developed. The agreement also allows for use of the pipeline, for a price, by the county. AP/Yahoo_ 2/8/08

January, 2008

More Great Lakes cleanup needed

The Great Lakes are less polluted than in the past, but U.S. efforts to improve water quality are hampered by unclear lines of responsibility and inadequate funding, a witness told lawmakers Wednesday. "The future of the Great Lakes is uncertain," said Irene Brooks, acting chair of the U.S. section of the International Joint Commission. The commission, made up of U.S. and Canadian members, works to resolve and prevent disputes between the two countries on the Great Lakes and rivers that straddle their borders. The Great Lakes basin includes parts of eight states and two Canadian provinces. "Our view is that to speed up the cleanup, accountability is paramount," Brooks told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. The panel plans to consider legislation to toughen water-quality standards for the Great Lakes and authorize more money to control industrial pollution, wastewater discharges, agricultural runoff and invasive species, and to tackle contaminated sediments in the harbors along the lakes. Brooks said the United States and Canada must make "a bold commitment" to improve water quality and ensure that fish, water and beaches are safe. Detroit Free Press_ 1/27/08

South Florida's tougher new water restrictions will start Tuesday

Once-a-week watering limits beginning Tuesday are intended to trigger what regulators call a "change in culture" needed to protect South Florida's water supply. After the driest back-to-back years on record, South Florida water managers are imposing their most far-reaching restrictions ever, covering most homes and businesses from Orlando to the Keys. The South Florida Water Management District contends habits have to change this year because the strain on water supplies continues to worsen. Half of South Florida's public water supply is used for landscape irrigation, according to the district, and the tougher restrictions are intended to conserve for what is forecast to be a drier than normal winter and spring. South Florida Sun-Sentinel_ 1/14/08

Metropolitan Water District may cut water to Southern California cities

The Metropolitan Water District is considering a contingency plan to cut water deliveries to its member cities using a new formula that critics contend favors faster-growing areas while penalizing older, poor communities. The district's staff is recommending the plan in case the agency, which serves 18 million people in six counties, is forced to slash water deliveries this spring in the event of continuing shortages. The current discussion signals growing worries that the region's water supplies cannot meet demand, due to last year's record dry weather, an eight-year drought in the Colorado River Basin and a federal court order last month that sharply reduces water deliveries from Northern California. The MWD is also considering rate hikes of 10% to 20% for next year, in part to buy more water to shore up supplies. The formula recommended by the MWD staff would be the first adopted by the 80-year-old district, which manages the delivery of water to cities from Ventura County to the Mexican border. It acts as a water wholesaler, importing water from Northern California and the Colorado River and selling it to its 26 member cities and water districts. The agency did not use a formula during the droughts of the late 1970s and early 1990s, instead cutting deliveries by a set percentage across the board. The formula has been debated privately since last summer by MWD staff and officials from water districts throughout the region. Los Angeles Times_ 1/7/08 (logon required)

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