The seven western states dependent on the Colorado River for their water are on the verge of coming to an agreement on a management plan to ensure a steady supply of water from the increasingly stressed source. But some say the plan won't do enough.
"The heart of the plan is the heart of the river system, its two largest reservoirs along Arizona's northern borders. Lake Powell and Lake Mead hold not only the water needed to survive long dry periods but also the key to a landmark deal meant to give the states a chance to find longer-lasting solutions."
"Drought has drained the two reservoirs to below half capacity, increasing the threat of water shortages upstream and in Arizona, along with the loss of cheap hydropower and damage to riparian habitat and recreation sites. With that much at risk, some of the states were prepared to fight costly legal battles. The drought plan can't keep the lakes from shrinking further if dry conditions persist and could trigger the first shortage as early as 2010. But by focusing on the reservoirs and the way they help manage the river's limited supply, the states hope to protect users from the worst effects of drought."
"The plan guides management of the river through 2026 using reservoir levels to trigger rationing and a series of experimental conservation programs. Environmental groups say the plan fails to protect the river itself, but the states insist they produced what they could within their limits."