FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Extra Water for California as Others
Environmental Groups Condemn Federal Water Giveaway
Environmental groups today protested the U.S. Department of the
Interior's proposal to give additional Colorado River water to
California agricultural interests before the end of the year.
Despite tremendous pressure to reduce its use, California irrigators
have failed to stay within their limits in this time of scarcity.
Citing plans and agreements for use of water in 2002 that have
been in place for over ten months, environmentalists urged Interior
Secretary Gale Norton not to expand uses of the Colorado River
at the eleventh hour.
"The Colorado River is not a bottomless resource,"
warned Pamela Hyde, Executive Director for Southwest Rivers. "Secretary
Norton should not be handing out additional water to users who
- simply put - have failed to take into consideration our current
drought conditions." Southern California agricultural interests,
with a combined 3.85 million acre-foot block of water available
to them this year, are on track to exceed use of that amount before
the end of the year.
"It's amazing," said Michael Cohen, Senior Associate
at the Pacific Institute, "that when California has committed
to reduce its use of Colorado River water, it violates our faith
and asks for yet more water."
"Many Colorado River water users had to go without this
year," added Jennifer Pitt, Senior Resource Analyst at Environmental
Defense. "It's outrageous for California to expect more while
others make do with less."
"Arizona should be particularly concerned about giving extra
water to California because in times of severe drought, Arizona
would be the first to have their allocation reduced," says
Lisa Force of the Arizona office of Living Rivers.
The Department of the Interior has proposed to fill additional
California orders for Colorado River water in the wake of unheeded
warnings to users in the state that their uses would exceed the
amount available to them. Over the past few years, all the Colorado
River basin states came up with a plan to help California live
within its legal limits. This giveaway of water circumvents the
plan, ignoring the hard-fought consensus.
"If the Department of the Interior and Colorado
River water users can't even stick to the agreements they
have already made, what comfort can we find in assurances
from these groups the health of the river will be addressed
in the future?" asked Hyde. "The message we
are getting loud and clear is: during times of drought,
all bets are off."