News - Spring 2014 Newsletter

Spring 2014 Newsletter

Colorado River Flows Through Delta!

In a historic event, water was intentionally released to the Colorado River Delta on March 23, 2014, for the first time in five decades. The gates of Morelos Dam were opened by the International Boundary and Water Commission, to allow for the first pulse flow event towards the Gulf of California. The controlled flow is scheduled to last eight weeks and send more than 100,000 acre-feet of water to the river’s delta. This represents less than 1 percent of the river’s flow in an average year but is enough to temporally reconnect the Colorado River to the Gulf of California. The pulse flow is intended to mimic the way the Colorado River flowed in the springtime, thanks to snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains, before dams were built and water diverted towards agricultural fields and municipal users. The pulse flow will be followed by a small but steady stream of base flows meant to keep the channel wet to allow for restoration of the riparian habitat. Since water was released, dozens of scientists have been closely monitoring its effect on the ecosystem, from flow rates to seed dispersal. This initiative was part of the Minute 319, a binational agreement signed in late 2012.Colorado River Flows Through Delta!

Supreme Court Rules Texas-New Mexico Lawsuit May Proceed

On January 27, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Texas can proceed to the next step in its lawsuit against New Mexico over the use of Rio Grande water. In 2013, Texas initiated its original action against New Mexico alleging that New Mexico has violated and continues to violate the Rio Grande Compact, an interstate water agreement between Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, by allowing illegal and unauthorized diversions through groundwater pumping. Texas asks that New Mexico be ordered to stop these illegal diversions and to compensate Texas for damages it has incurred because of New Mexico’s unlawful activities. New Mexico counters that it is in full compliance with the Rio Grande Compact and that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over the matter. The brief Supreme Court order suggests the court thinks it may have jurisdiction, although it invites New Mexico to file a motion to dismiss the action, which is a procedural right normally afforded to parties in litigation. For farmers in New Mexico, the risk in the case is that a ruling in favor of Texas could force restrictions on groundwater pumping.

NASA Satellites Show Water Losses in Colorado River Basin

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, reported that surface water losses from the reservoirs along the Colorado River are just a small part of the basin’s overall water loss since 2005. They identified the disappearance of groundwater as the most worrisome problem. The UCI research team assessed fluctuations in water storage using data from NASA’s GRACE mission, a pair of satellites that translate changes in gravity into changes in water volume. The GRACE satellites measure total water storage – the water in mountain snowpack, reservoirs and rivers, soils, and aquifers. By subtracting the known quantities from other data sets, the value for each component can be calculated. Over a 100-month study period from March 2005 to June 2013, the Colorado River Basin lost 4.6 million acre-feet of water per year. The cumulative losses are equal to 1.3 times the storage capacity of Lake Mead. Preliminary data indicates that most of the water losses could be attributed to groundwater pumping, mainly for irrigated agriculture.

ADWR New Portal Facilitates Data Sharing

The Arizona Department of Water Resources has developed a data portal that provides individuals and organizations with an online interface for reporting and sharing water level data. Third party groundwater levels are directly input into ADWR’s Ground Water Site Inventory (GWSI) database. Organizations can request a logon to the portal using the following link: At this time the portal only accepts water level data for wells with a GWSI identification number. The GWSI database is available at The next version of the portal will incorporate wells that have a 55-registration (well registry) number. The WELLS-55 database contains information on most wells in the state; however, not all wells are registered. Some unregistered wells may be in GWSI but may not be registered. Likewise, many registered wells have not been field verified and are not included in GWSI. Currently, over 21,000 wells have been matched or have a database ID in both GWSI and WELLS-55.

Southern Nevada Water Authority Appoints New Director

John Entsminger succeeded Pat Mulroy as director of the Southern Nevada Water Authority — a coalition of seven local water districts charged with managing the region’s water resources and providing for the present and future water needs of residents and businesses in the Las Vegas Valley. John Entsminger joined the Water Authority upon graduating from the University of Colorado Law School in 1999. Former director Pat Mulroy retired in February after two decades as director of the Water Authority.

Nanomaterials Topic of EPA $5 Million Award to ASU

In April, the EPA awarded a $5 million research grant to Arizona State University to better understand the impacts of nanomaterials throughout their life cycle—from design, manufacture, use and disposal. Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest said in the announcement of the award that the ASU research will help minimize risks associated with these materials and enable the design of safer products.