Colorado River caucus forms to address water crisis in basin states

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A group of U.S. senators has formed the Colorado River caucus to discuss how Washington can help states grapple with dwindling water supplies from the critical artery out West.

Sen. John Hickenlooper, Colorado Democrat, told CNN he convened an informal group to discuss a response to vanishing water in the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs, only to see it grow into a robust caucus of senators from the seven Colorado River basin states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Mr. Hickenlooper said the Senate needs to be a good working partner with states, which are increasingly fighting over water. Tensions are particularly high between California and the six other basin states about how to allocate supplies.

“There might be additional resources that are needed to really solve this. I think most experts feel this is not just a drought — there is some level of aridification, desertification,” Mr. Hickenlooper said.

The report says talks are focused on ways to prop up the states with more funding for drought relief and water users who are suffering from supply cuts. Congress authorized $4 billion in drought relief for states, tribes and farmers last year, but senators said more might be needed.

The group is reluctant, however, to broaden federal powers to intervene and decide how water will be shared from the Colorado River.

“A federally mandated solution and litigation will leave everyone worse off,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona independent, told CNN. “The Colorado River belongs to all of us and we either fail or succeed as a region.”

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