weather icon Mostly Clear

Feds should force California’s hand on water use

California officials continue to be the lone holdout on an agreement among seven Colorado River states to cut water usage. Despite imposing numerous “deadlines” for such a deal, federal officials have yet to intervene. They must reconsider if the thirsty Golden State refuses to budge.

Six of the seven states — including Nevada — reached an accord last month to impose significant cuts on water allocations of nearly 20 percent. But California, which devours the most Colorado River water of any state, refused to go along. The state bases its position, in part, on the belief that legal precedent, archaic water law and its political clout will protect its domain.

In reality, the state is trying to preserve its agriculture industry.

It’s a common misconception that urban growth drives Colorado River water use. Not true. The 1922 compact among the seven states created the groundwork for problems because the allocations were based on exaggerated water flow estimates. A major and persistent drought over the past two decades has made the situation much worse.

But while residential and urban conservation are vital to stretching a limited supply of a scarce resource, the success and fairness of any new water compact depends on a re-examination of how agricultural interests dominate consumption.

About 80 percent of Colorado River water use is directed to farming interests, primarily in California’s Imperial Valley, which gets about 3.1 million acre-feet a year, more than 70 percent of the state’s entire annual allocation and more than any other state. Many of the crops produced are water-intensive, including alfalfa, hay and almonds.

Various California water interests have proposed cutbacks of about 9 percent, “much less than the 15 percent to 30 percent cuts that federal water managers are waiting for,” according to CalMatters. The six other Colorado River states are seeking greater reductions from the largest users, but “California would prefer to stick with their interpretation of old legal agreements because they come out on top,” one water expert told the paper.

But as former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt pointed out in a January commentary for the Nevada Independent, federal officials have the power to break the impasse by limiting deliveries that aren’t “reasonably required for beneficial use.”

Is it “beneficial” in times of drought to divert water to grow alfalfa in the desert? “What is reasonable for irrigation allocations in normal years may be entirely unreasonable” when the Colorado River system is under such stress, Mr. Babbitt writes. “It is now time for the Interior to use its … authority for an expansive review of all agricultural use contracts and to reduce allocations to reflect a fair measure of burden sharing.”

If the folks at Interior rattle that saber, they might be surprised by how fast California sees the light.

The views expressed above are those of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

A story of reconciliation amidst division

I keep going into the week when it is time for me to write a column with an idea that I know I want to write about but events keep pushing that idea further out into the future.

Who did more for veterans?

Did President Joe Biden or President Donald Trump do more for America’s veterans? It all depends how one keeps score: Introduce laws? Pass laws? Do large things, or many small things? Important things, or things that were not so important?Below are two examples according to Military.com.

Holy smokes!

Two weeks ago on June 25, I received messages from panicked individuals at the Elks Lodge RV Park stating that the Boulder City Fire Department had been conducting a controlled burn that had gotten out of control.

July is PR Month

For nearly 40 years, the nation has celebrated Park and Recreation Month in July to promote building strong, vibrant, and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation.

July 4 safety and awareness checklist

As we celebrate our great nation’s birthday, let’s run down this safety and awareness checklist so we can have a blast this 4th… but only the good kind.

“Be Kind, Be Boulder” this Fourth of July

Happy Birthday, America! Today, we celebrate an act of autonomy and sovereignty that happened in 1776, nearly 250 years ago: the Founding Fathers signing of the Declaration of Independence established this great nation. (It would be another 155 years before Boulder City’s founders arrived to construct Hoover Dam!)

Ensuring fire safety at Lake Mead

At Lake Mead National Recreation Area, our mission extends beyond preserving the natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

Independence Day in Boulder City

I was elected to the Boulder City council long ago. Believe me, there were more exciting events that occurred during city council meetings in the mid-to-late 1980s than there are at present. We had Skokie Lennon who arrived in the council meetings while standing at the back of the room. When he had something to say he would erupt with the statement “can you hear me?” Of course we could since he was the loudest person in the room. He would say what he had to say and then leave.

Nothing to fear

A June 13 letter by Norma Vally claimed Pride Month in Boulder City is an example of identity politics that will cause divisiveness in our safe, kind, and welcoming town. I cannot disagree more.

Save me some confetti eggs

In last week’s edition, I wrote a preview of the upcoming July 4 celebration and described Boulder City’s biggest day of the year as if a Norman Rockwell painting had come alive and jumped off the canvas. I had a few people praise me for that description, saying it’s the perfect way to do so.