Environment & Public Lands
11:36 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Should Utah Lease Its Share of the Colorado?

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  Pat Mulroy, the long-time head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, announced her plans to retire this week.  She’s been a strong proponent of the plan to pump groundwater from the Great Basin to Las Vegas.  But she also suggested in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun that the project wouldn’t be necessary if Nevada could work out a deal with states such as Utah that hold water rights on the Colorado River.

Zach Frankel with the environmental group Utah Rivers says that’s encouraging – he says Utah could bring in tens of millions of dollars a year by leasing water from the Colorado that isn’t being used right now.

“We could start leasing relatively soon," Frankel tells KUER.  "We don’t have to build billions of dollars in complicated infrastructure contingent on multi-year permitting processes.  We could start a lease contract as soon as we could get it done and have the two states agree, and we could be making revenue on this water.”

Water rights in the Colorado River were allocated by an interstate compact in 1922.  Drought has reduced the flow in the river in recent years, and Frankel admits there may not be enough real water in the river to meet downstream needs in the future