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With the Biden Administration recently announcing plans to implement historic water cuts on the seven western states (namely, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) that rely on the Colorado River, David believes it's time for Congress to convene a second Colorado River Commission.

Unlike the first Colorado River Commission, which met in 1928 and included only delegates from the seven western states and the federal government, this second commission must also include delegates from the nation’s biggest agricultural and environmental groups, Mexico, and the various western American Indian tribes so as to avoid controversy and endless legal delays.

Once approval is secured, the commission will be task with implementing the following plan:

  • Renegotiate current allotments based on current weather and population data – This will undoubtably be the first and most pressing task for the commission to deal with. The original allocations for the Lower and Upper Basin states were based on inaccurate flow data. The new allocations must be based upon the correct flow data. Second, since one of the primary goals of the commission is to solve California's water issues, the new allotment agreement should be two-fold. The states should agree to new yearly allotments based upon the current situation in California and then agree to renegotiate once California's water supply is bolstered via the implementation of the California specific tasks below. This is because, if the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers follow through with their commitment to fund and implement the California portion of this plan, California's need for water via the Colorado River will be greatly diminished.

  • Capture, store, and transport flood waters from high flood areas in the U.S. – To help stabilize the flow of the Colorado River, the commission should include a plan for the construction of water storage projects and pipelines in high flood states like Texas and the Southeast. Once the water is captured and stored, the pipelines would transport and dump it into the Colorado River. This would help ensure that Colorado’s flow is reliable even in unusually dry years and/or periods of drought.


California Specific Tasks:

  • Repair aging infrastructure and restore native habitat in the San Joaquin Delta – Today’s Delta looks dramatically different than it did prior to it becoming a civilized nexus of water supply. It has been transformed from a natural waterway into a complex channel of man-made canals, levies, and dikes. A functional delta is vital for California’s economy and must be retained. While we work to repair and modernize our existing water infrastructure (Friant-Kern and Delta-Mendota Canals) we must also begin the process of constructing new conveyance systems and provide resources to re-establish estuaries at various points along the Delta that will not impede its economic operation. This will allow us to increase the economic efficiency of the Delta and restore natural habitats.

  • Clean up wastewater discharged into the Delta – Close to a billion gallons of wastewater is dumped into the Delta each day. Even though environmental laws have specific requirements for wastewater discharge, many cities and towns do not have modernized or adequate treatment facilities and are unable to stop harmful pharmaceuticals or ammonia from making it into the Delta. These contaminants have devastating effects on wildlife and increase the amount of water that must be drained from reservoirs. We must invest in new modernized water treatment facilities in every town and city along the Delta.

  • Balance native and non-native species in the Delta – The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is one of the most invaded estuaries in the world. There are more non-native species, in particular the striped bass, living in the Delta than native ones. We can allow all the water in the world to flow through the Delta, but if we continue to permit the populations of non-native species to grow unchecked, salmon and smelt populations will never recover.

  • Create new water storage – Whether it’s climate change or mismanagement causing our water crisis does not matter. To catch and store more water for dry seasons, you need more buckets. If our climate is becoming drier and precipitation events are less frequent, we must take advantage of when it does rain or snow. We could guarantee adequate water supplies throughout California by storing 2.5 to 3-million more acre-feet (AF) of water per year. Federal funding for projects like the Temperance Flat Dam (1.3-million AF), Sites Reservoir (1.5-million AF), Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir, increasing the capacity of the San Luis and Los Vaqueros Reservoirs and raising Shasta Dam must become reality. Not only will these projects increase water available for drier periods, but they would also provide water for wildlife refuges and help in the battle to recharge groundwater.

  • Properly manage the forests – Properly managed forests would dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of fires as well as increase the amount of water runoff into streams and underground aquifers. As wildfires increase in frequency and severity, the need to properly manage forests to a historic plant density is of the utmost importance. Our forests are between 80%-600% denser than they were a century ago and their floors are flush with highly flammable debris. We should reintroduce logging to help reduce density. We can also divert a percentage of the money set aside to fight wildfires and earmark it for forest management. These investments would restore the natural flow of runoff.

  • Invest in the development of desalination and reclamation facilities – The development of desalination plants and the reclamation of recycled water would dramatically reduce or eliminate the need to pump water over the Tehachapi Mountains. Today, a fully functioning desalination plant can be built for just over $1 billion. We must make it a priority to secure funding for the construction of these facilities along the California coast.

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