More water restrictions likely as California pledges to cut use of Colorado River supply
California could be forced to slash its use of Colorado River water, potentially in response to a threatened drought, if a water treaty with Mexico and other states that includes the southern tip of the state is not signed or approved by the Obama administration in the next 60 days, according to senior officials in the water department.
For decades, California has used about 75 percent of the river’s annual flow from Mexico, the United States and Canada to irrigate farmlands, cities and other water-reliant communities, and its water resources are seen as more vital to the country.
But after the 2007-09 drought, the state began to restrict its use of some water and negotiate with the federal government to buy more of the river’s flow from Mexico to address a possible shortage in the future.
Under the proposed treaty with Mexico, approved last month by the U.S. Senate, California could buy up to 20 million acre-feet of water from Mexico for $100 million per year — less than some experts say is reasonable for the state. It would be paid to the state as a loan over 30 years at 12.5 percent interest.
The deal includes provisions to reduce the amount of water the state uses from the Colorado over the next 30 years. The agreement’s provisions also include a plan to sell off some of its water interests to California and Nevada that will save the state an estimated $1 billion over 30 years when they sell the water to Mexico and other water-rich states.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the agreement with Mexico has “some amazing potential” for California, whose state officials have said a drought will cause the state to reduce its use of Colorado River water unless there are cuts in the use of other water.
The estimated $100 million per year the state could pay over 30 years for the Mexico deal is about one-third as much as the state typically purchases from Arizona for its Colorado River water system, said Stephen Mayfield, a spokesman for the water department’s water board.
Mayfield said the treaty with Mexico provides enough water to avoid a drought-related drought of