Bennet, Gardner introduce drought contingency plan legislation
WASHINGTON – Colorado U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner today introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act to ensure the wide-reaching Drought Contingency Plan forged between the seven Colorado River Basin states and Indian tribes can be implemented without delay while fully respecting important environmental protections in the process.
“The Colorado River is the lifeblood of our economy, but in recent years we’ve experienced some of the worst drought conditions in centuries.” Bennet said. “Years of hard work from individuals across seven states have gone into developing the Drought Contingency Plan to respond to this drought and avoid the most severe consequences. We’re glad to present the result of this collaborative effort, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this legislation forward. We must act quickly to safeguard Colorado’s agricultural and outdoor recreation based economy.”
“Forty million people in the western United States depend on the health of the Colorado River to provide water for agricultural, municipal, and consumptive use,” Gardner said. “The river also supports a growing recreation economy. However, in the face of long term drought, the basin states have come together to create coordinated plans that should aid efforts to prevent severe water shortages in the West and stabilize water storage levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell. I congratulate the states on the successful collaboration that has produced this plan, and I urge my colleagues to move this legislation without delay.”
The Colorado River Basin drains more than 246,000 square miles across seven states and Mexico. More than 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming depend on the river for drinking water, farming irrigation, and hydropower. Since 2000, the Colorado River has experienced its most severe drought in 100 years of record keeping and what may be the one of the driest periods in the last 1,200 years according to paleo-records. The Drought Contingency Plan was negotiated between the seven Colorado River Basin States and Indian tribes to respond to this prolonged drought. It is designed to protect Lakes Mead and Powell from reaching certain critical water elevations that would trigger severe water supply reductions and hydropower impacts, including the risk of reaching crises levels where operational control of the Colorado River System is lost.