News Feature | October 19, 2022

California Proposes Cutting 130 Billion Gallons Per Year From Colorado River, But Will It Be Enough?

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


As water scarcity worsens around the world, one of the country’s largest consumers is volunteering to make a dramatic cut to consumption. But some officials question if even this move will be sufficient to combat growing drought.

“A group of California water agencies that together consume the largest proportion of Colorado River water each year … proposed cutting their annual usage allotment of river water by 400,000 acre feet, or around 130 billion gallons,” CNN reported. “But (Sarah) Porter, the director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, told CNN that 400,000 a year is not even 10% of California’s total allocation — and certainly not enough to save the Colorado River.”

Use of Colorado River source water has been a growing point of tension amid these most recent drought conditions, with the U.S. Department of the Interior recently mandating cuts by Arizona and Nevada, and firmly encouraging other states to voluntarily reduce their own consumption. And California’s heavy reliance on this source body has drawn controversy in particular, with an Arizona legislator calling it “reckless and unacceptable.”

This recent voluntary offer from California appears to be the first move toward settling on potential voluntary cuts, and it could be increased depending on how federal officials react.

“California Natural Resources Agency spokesperson Lisa Lien-Mager told CNN the number from the water agencies isn’t a final offer, and could change depending on what kind of federal money is on the table,” according to CNN. “Another important factor for California is federal money to help save the Salton Sea.”

Though experts fear this voluntary cut would not be enough to save a critical Western source of drinking water, California’s move may prove to be a critical beginning toward an effective solution. As the entire region struggles, that state is under a particular spotlight to lead in drought mitigation measures, and its water agency proposal may mark a significant first step.

“The proposal to cut 400,000 acre feet annually marks the first time California water agencies are publicly and formally indicating what they’re willing to give up since federal officials demanded major cuts this summer,” per the Associated Press. “California has been under pressure from other states to figure out how to use less as river reservoirs drop so low they risk losing the ability to generate hydropower and deliver water.”

To read more about how state agencies are adapting to drought, visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.