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Trump Just Signed a New Plan for the Colorado River. There’s Already a Lawsuit to Halt It.

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Mud is seen on land that was under the Salton Sea a few years ago on January 1st, 2019, near Calipatria, California.

President Donald Trump signed off on bipartisan legislation that would allow the Bureau of Reclamation to carry out the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan on Tuesday—and a California district has already sued to halt the plan.

The plan, supported by all 14 senators from the Colorado River Basin states, aims to cut back on water use from the Colorado River by preventing water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead from falling to severely low levels. The legislation is the culmination of years of negotiations among the neighboring states.

The Colorado River serves 40 million people in the western United States. And amid a nearly 20-year drought, Lake Mead—a man-made lake and the largest reservoir in the U.S. in terms of water capacity—fell to its lowest level ever in 2016. Lake Mead hasn’t been full since 1983, and water levels have declined since then. This is the most severe drought in 1,250 years for the Colorado River.

But this drought may be the new normal, and many experts believe it is being driven by climate change. Policies designed to encourage more productive water usage will likely increase at the federal, state, and local levels as water scarcity increases as a result of climate change.

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