And the People Said…
For its study of water use in the Colorado River basin, the Bureau of Reclamation asked for suggestions from the public about how to close the gap between supply and demand. The people responded. The bureau received more than 140 proposals, none of which is binding in any way.
Slightly more than a third of the responses offered ways to reduce demand (stop leaks; install efficient appliances; manage population growth), and slightly less than a third of responses looked at how to increase supplies (desalination; cloud seeding; transfers from other river basins; clearing brush). A quarter considered changes in operations and management.
The Bureau of Reclamation predicts that runoff from the Colorado River into Lake Powell will be 49 percent of normal for the April-July period this year.
April’s snowpack maps from the National Water and Climate Center show the Western U.S. split in two. The Pacific Northwest and the northern Rocky Mountains are, for the most part, at or above normal. Go south, however, and the map is danger-zone colors, fiery reds and burnt orange.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released water quality results from a second round of well-testing in a Pennsylvania town at the center of the debate over fracking and aquifer contamination. StateImpact Pennsylvania reports that the EPA did not find levels of contaminants that would cause the agency to intervene.
Red River Rivalry
In a signal that it might be interested in the case, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the U.S. solicitor general to file a brief in a water rights dispute between a water district in north Texas and the state of Oklahoma, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Tarrant Regional Water District, which provides wholesale water to some 1.8 million customers west of Dallas, would like to draw on new sources in Oklahoma, but that state has blocked cross-border water transfers. Tarrant filed its lawsuit in 2007.
Last month the Supreme Court rejected an unrelated appeal from an Oklahoma city seeking to get around the state’s prohibition on water transfers. Officials in Hugo, Okla. wanted to sell billions of gallons of water to Irving, Texas, near Dallas.
The U.S. Forest Service has submitted the final version of its new planning rule, which places greater emphasis on water resources and watershed restoration. The rule will affect management plans for all service units, including forests, grasslands and prairies.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton