The Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC) announced significant progress in implementing its Five-Point Plan at its meeting on December 14, 2022, at the Colorado River Water Users Association Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Colorado Commissioner Becky Mitchell emphasized that the most impactful thing that can be done to manage the Colorado River System is to reduce uses in dry years. Colorado achieves this through strict administration of water rights based on hydrology—in 2021, administration impacted water use on over 203,000 acres within the Colorado River Basin in Colorado. Collectively, preliminary data from the UCRC shows that the Upper Division States used 25% less water in 2021 than in 2020 due to constraints on the physical and legal availability of water. “We must continue to live within the means of what the river provides year to year and we ask others to do the same. This is the only way the system will continue as we know it into the future,” said Commissioner Mitchell.
At its meeting, the UCRC released a pre-solicitation for request for proposals for participation in the System Conservation Pilot Program, a large-scale program involving temporary, voluntary, and compensated reductions in consumptive use across the Upper Division States. Conserved system water could help mitigate the impacts of drought in the Upper Basin.
The UCRC also announced progress on the interstate Demand Management feasibility investigation and released a summary report of the study detailing key findings of the interstate investigation. This report will help inform next steps in Colorado’s Demand Management investigation, which will continue into 2023. More information on Demand Management is available at the CWCB website.
The Upper Division States will also consider additional releases from upstream reservoirs pursuant to the Drought Response Operations Agreement, in addition to the 661,000 acre-feet previously committed. The Commissioners emphasized the need to maintain the benefits of this water in Lake Powell.