More water restrictions likely as California pledges to cut use of Colorado River supply
Gina Ferazzi, right, director of water sustainability at the Center for Biological Diversity, testifies before a congressional subcommittee about her concerns with the proposed Delta-Mendota Canal project at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing legislation that makes it illegal for the government to increase the amounts of water it takes from the Colorado River, potentially putting an end to a plan by Gov. Jerry Brown to use the river.
The proposal is co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
The Senate bill — which has bipartisan support of 33 of the 34 senators — would stop the state from buying water from the state’s river-sharing agreements with Arizona and the federal Bureau of Reclamation.
“This is our first real opportunity to get control of water and to do it by constitutional mandate,” Lockyer said. “I think we have to act and now is the time.”
Under current law, California can charge higher rates for water as long as the state is not actually taking water from another entity like the Bureau of Reclamation.
The Bureau buys the water needed for Southern California to operate its desalination plants and can use the water after the state gets it from Arizona.
Brown proposed a plan in January to use the Colorado River not only for desalination but also for water recycling.
But the governor’s plan faces an uncertain future following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in February that, without Congressional approval, states can’t force other states to use their water.
The Supreme Court ruling effectively eliminates California from using the Colorado River on its own terms, according to Brown’s office.
The court has ruled that California is obligated to use the Colorado River on its own terms. The court could also allow the states to get water to use from other sources, such as the Colorado River.
The state’s share of Colorado River water from Arizona is already at 80 percent, but the Department of Water Resources has been able to