Colorado River talks break down on drought response plans

By Jennifer Yachnin | 02/27/2024 01:36 PM EST

The Upper and Lower basin states are now expected to submit competing plans for long-term river management as negotiations falter ahead of a March unofficial deadline.

Boats moving along Lake Powell.

Boats moving on June 9, 2021, along Lake Powell, which is on the Colorado River, in Wahweap, Arizona. Ross D. Franklin/AP

Negotiations among the seven states that share the drought-stricken Colorado River have stalled ahead of a March target date to propose new operating plans for the waterway, as officials split over which states should absorb the brunt of cuts triggered by the region’s ongoing drought.

The states — Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming in the Upper Basin and Arizona, California and Nevada in the Lower Basin — are now expected to submit separate plans to the Biden administration early next month, rather than a single cohesive plan, according to representatives of states from both regions.

“If there is interest in getting to a seven-state consensus compromise, all seven states have to actually compromise and recognize this is a massive problem that needs solving, not a party primary or campaign rally,” J.B. Hamby, chair of the Colorado River Board of California, told E&E News.


The split lands the Interior Department in a precarious — but familiar — position as it moves to update its long-term operating plan for the Colorado River, which must be in place when current plans expire in 2026.