SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's two senators joined a bipartisan group of Western colleagues Tuesday in introducing drought contingency plans for the Colorado River to ward off possible shortages that may come in the aftermath of the river's driest 100 years.
Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney are among 14 senators to co-sponsor legislation to ensure the wide-reaching plan forged between the seven Colorado River Basin states and Indian tribes could be implemented without delay. The river has seen a 19 percent decline in its flows since 2000.
Lawmakers called the plan a grassroots, state-driven solution to ensure drinking water for 40 million people, irrigation for 5.5 million acres of farmland, and more than 4,000 megawatts of carbon-free hydropower for communities across the West.
“The Colorado River is managed under a complicated set of compacts, statues, court decisions, and other agreements; given these constraints, negotiating a compromise among all the stakeholders is quite the accomplishment," Lee said.
The plan is designed to protect Lake Mead and Lake Powell from reaching certain critical water elevations that would trigger severe water supply reductions and hydropower impacts, including the risk of reaching crises levels.
Utah has experienced severe drought the past 19 years, with Lake Powell currently at dangerously low levels, Romney said.
“The Colorado River is critical to the survival, livelihood and recreation of Utahns, and we must do everything we can to sustain it," he said. "By implementing drought contingency plans for the Colorado River Basin, this bill is an important step toward managing Utah’s waters and the communities that depend on them.”13 comments on this story
The Colorado River Basin drains more than 246,000 square miles across seven states and Mexico. Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming depend on the river for drinking water, farming irrigation and hydropower.
In addition to Lee and Romney, Sens. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.; Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.; Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Tom Udall, D-N.M.; and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., are co-sponsors of the bill.