New push to shore up shrinking Colorado River could reduce water flow to California
With the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) in a precarious position, the Colorado River Basin is experiencing its highest water levels in recorded history. So is Los Angeles.
For the third consecutive year, the USBR is expanding its diversion project for the Central Valley Project. The water authority said it will build a second aqueduct to raise groundwater levels to supply more water to the West Valley Project, now California’s largest water supply. However, the project is facing a growing backlash from Southern California farmers and environmentalists because it’s being proposed on land slated for development.
With the project set to begin in mid-2013, the Bureau had already begun diverting water to the Southern California Project last year. But it has also begun to divert to the Central Valley Project. And the diversion could be ramping up.
The new diversion project will take between half and one billion gallons of water per day, according to the Bureau. But that’s not likely to happen on its own: The USBR is proposing to divert water from the San Luis Unit to help the Central Valley Project expand. That would be a dramatic turnaround for the San Luis Unit.
Last year, the USBR announced that it would divert just over half the San Luis Unit water from the Colorado River to the Central Valley Project. That decision was made possible by a 2006 law that required the Bureau to divert at least half of its San Luis water to Southern California and other west-of-the-mountains communities.
The Central Valley Project has a long-term goal of reaching the water shortage capacity to supply 25 percent of the water demand in the state, according to the Bureau. But the USBR is only a little over halfway there.
With water restrictions on the California agriculture industry, as well as the drought conditions in Southern California and the Southwest, the USBR was supposed to begin diversion to the Central Valley in early 2014. Instead, it has delayed the project for nearly two years, saying it needs more time to complete environmental reviews