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Southwest States Will Not Finalize Drought Plan Before Trump Administration Takes Over

Colorado River
(KJZZ file photo)
The Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

Southwest states will not reach a new agreement to avert major cutbacks in Colorado River water before the Trump administration takes over.

Even after months of negotiations, Arizona, California and Nevada will come up short of finalizing a deal on how to leave more water in the Lake Mead reservoir.

State water officials in concert with the federal government had hoped to nail down the new so-called " drought contingency plan" by the end of the year.

But the Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources Tom Buschatzke said recently they won’t make that deadline. That’s because cities, tribes and farmers within the states still need to hash out who will take these new cuts and then get the feds to sign off.

“We know there will be a learning curve for the new administration this spring after they take office," Buschatzke said. "So we know there will be some time before we can finalize...probably several months.”

Recent estimates show about a 50 percent chance Southwest states will face a shortage declaration in 2018. The proposed plan would force Arizona to forego some of its share now to avoid even greater cutbacks later.

The state legislature will also need to okay the deal before it takes effect.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.