Energy & Environment — Colorado River talks stalled out ahead of deadline

·5 min read

The federal government seems poised to step in on Colorado River water cuts, President Biden will sign major climate legislation Tuesday and climate change is upping the odds of a “megaflood” on the West Coast.

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Official: ‘Nothing’ accomplished in water-sharing talks

Water-sharing negotiations among the seven states in the Colorado River basin have failed to produce results, a Nevada water official said in a letter obtained by The Hill, on the eve of a Tuesday deadline when the federal government will step in.

How we got here: The division of water from the river is divided among Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming under a century-old compact based on water levels that no longer exist. As a result, more water is allocated than actually flows through the river.

Earlier this year, the federal government gave the states an Aug. 15 deadline to reach a deal for 15 percent cuts to water usage or the federal government would impose the cuts unilaterally.

But now: In a letter to Interior Department and Bureau of Reclamation officials, John Entsminger, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, wrote that the last three months of talks have “produced exactly nothing in terms of meaningful collective action to help forestall the looming crisis.”

Entsminger’s letter excoriated what he called “the drought profiteering” of agricultural districts in their demands, as well as generally “unreasonable expectations” by shareholders in the talks.

“Through our collective inaction, the federal government, the basin states and every water user on the Colorado River is complicit in allowing the situation to reach this point,” he wrote.

Entsminger made a number of policy recommendations to federal officials if and when they step in, including investments in water reuse, recycling and desalination programs, new managing criteria for facilities and reservoirs and the elimination of watering for nonfunctional turf by city governments.

He also recommended that federal drought mitigation funding be prioritized for “those projects that provide meaningful long-term and permanent reductions in use.”

The pending cuts come as the Western U.S. faces its worst drought since the year 800 A.D., plunging Lake Mead and Lake Powell to historic lows.

Read more about the situation here.

Biden to sign health and climate bill on Tuesday

President Biden will sign into law the sweeping climate, health care and tax legislation that has been Democrats’ priority for more than a year during a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday.

  • The signing will represent a major milestone for Biden and his domestic economic agenda. The prospects of his climate proposal appeared hopeless a month ago but were dramatically revived in an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) at the end of July.   

  • Biden, fresh off a family vacation in South Carolina, will sign the legislation and deliver a speech in the State Dining Room on Tuesday, according to a White House advisory. With Congress currently on recess, Biden is expected to host a larger celebratory event in September. 

“This historic bill will lower the cost of energy, prescription drugs, and other health care for American families, combat the climate crisis, reduce the deficit, and make the largest corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” the White House advisory said.

A reminder of what’s in it: The legislation contains provisions to lower prescription drug costs, offer clean energy tax credits to Americans and companies, and establish a 15 percent corporate minimum tax and a 1 percent excise tax on stock buybacks.

Biden administration officials are preparing to traverse the country to promote the bill in the coming weeks, making the case to voters that Democrats can deliver on their promises in the critical three months before the November midterm elections.

Read more from The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant.


The likelihood of a “megaflood” occurring in California has doubled due to climate change, according to a new study published on Friday.

  • The study, published in the Science Advances journal, found an increased likelihood of runoff water occurring from harsher storms, creating the threat of debris flows and landslides later, according to a press release from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

  • With every degree the Earth gets warmer, the risk for a “megaflood” increases, the study found.

Researchers looked at two different scenarios using present climate models and high-resolution weather modeling:

  • One scenario involved a long series of storms taking place during what scientists predicted climate conditions would be like between 2081 and 2100.

  • The other scenario predicted what it would be like if those storms took place in the current climate, according to the release.

In the Sierra Nevada, storms that took place toward the end of the century would see between 200 percent and 400 percent more runoff because of higher precipitation.

“There are localized spots that get over 100 liquid-equivalent inches of water in the month,” UCLA climate scientist and co-author of the research Daniel Swain said in a statement regarding the end-of-the-century scenario.

Read more from The Hill’s Caroline Vakil.


  • Florida official attacks journalists over Big Sugar story, claims they were paid by Sierra Club (The Orlando Sentinel)

  • Infrared Video Shows Widespread Oil and Gas Leaks in Los Angeles (Capital and Main)

  • Why scientists have pumped a potent greenhouse gas into streams on public lands (NPR)

  • Workers report feeling unsafe at Nevada’s largest gold-mining corporation (The Nevada Independent and High Country News)

  • Calif. governor gives lifeline to state’s last nuclear plant (E&E News)

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