A decades-long drought and population growth has left the Colorado River over-leveraged and in dire need of a new management plan before the water runs out for millions of Americans.
Negotiations between seven states to reapportion the river’s water have been deadlocked for months, and the federal government is threatening to break the deadlock with its own management plan — whether the states like it or not.
The Department of the Interior has given Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming a deadline to reach an agreement twice, and each time the states blew past it without reaching consensus.
The federal government’s request is unprecedented in U.S. history. The Colorado River supplies water for roughly 40 million Americans. The Bureau of Reclamation has asked the Basin states to cut water usage by about one-third.
The latest deadline passed on Wednesday with six of the seven states agreeing on a plan to cut water usage, with only California dissenting. The Golden State put forward its own plan emphasizing its priority rights over the Colorado River that have been a part of the legal framework governing the basin for a century.
The lack of consensus increases the chance that the…