Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact:Bob Walsh 702-293-8421
For Immediate Release:March 19, 2004
Frank Quimby 202-208-7291

Interior Secretary Norton Signs 2004
Annual Operating Plan for Colorado River

Full Allocations for Basin States Hit by Drought


(WASHINGTON) - Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today signed the 2004 Annual Operating Plan for the Colorado River, providing drought-affected states that share the river's water their full annual water allotments as well as some limited additional water, if needed, for Nevada, California and Arizona.

"In this time of severe drought, the operating plan provides reassurance to seven western states that their critical needs for Colorado River water will be met this year," Norton said. "This document provides water users in the Lower Basin assurance about the amount of water that will be available to them."

"Thanks to the visionary leaders who constructed the storage reservoirs on the Colorado River, our farms and cities in the West have the water to sustain their economies and way of life even in the face of drought conditions," Norton said.

The plan formally implements the terms of the Interim Surplus Guidelines and Colorado River Water Delivery Agreement. Under those pacts, California will take specific steps to reduce its over-reliance on Colorado River water, providing the other Basin States certainty and predictability for their long-term shares of the river's water.

While water conditions in the basin have improved over the last year due to welcome winter storms, runoff into the Colorado River system from April through July is forecast at only 74 percent of the long-term average. The total projected runoff for 2004 is 9.294 million acre feet-or 77 percent of the long-term average.

Under the 2004 Annual Operating Plan, the operating objective will be to release 8.23 million acre feet of Colorado River water from Glen Canyon Dam into Lake Mead. Because the plan has designated a "partial domestic surplus" of Colorado

River water in the Lower Basin in 2004, Nevada, California and Arizona will be
able to receive limited amounts of water from Lake Mead above their basic Colorado River entitlements. However, that water may be used only for domestic purposes, not for agriculture.

To date, only Nevada has requested surplus water -- about 17,000 acre-feet.
California and Arizona will receive their full orders for Colorado River water in 2004 -- 4.4 million acre feet and 2.8 million acre feet, respectively.

The Bureau of Reclamation develops the Annual Operation Plan in consultation with the seven Basin States, the Upper Colorado River Commission, Native American tribes, other federal agencies, academic and scientific community, environmental organizations, recreation industry, water and power entities, and others interested in Colorado River operations.

The Annual Operating Plan must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior, who is the "water master" of the lower Colorado River as established by the Supreme Court in 1963.


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