Arizona Farm Bureau President discusses Colorado River guidelines

The Colorado River impacts the livelihoods of millions, and now, the states that it impacts can be involved in updating the guidelines that govern how it is operated.

Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse called the river the “life blood of the Southwest” because it supplies water to more than 40 million people for agriculture, industrial, municipal, tribal and environmental uses.

The current guidelines for the river expire in 2025. The last time the guidelines were updated in 2007 because of tension caused by long-term drought and population growth. This year, the Department of the Interior will begin reviewing those guidelines and begin on the re-consultation of the Colorado River. The process of re-consultation is complex and takes a look at how every drop of water in the river is allocated. The process will take about five years.

“The Colorado River provides irrigation water for 5.5 million acres of farmland in the west, and that’s about 15 percent of the total U.S. production,” Smallhouse said. “So, that’s a big deal. Historically, Arizona’s farmers were key in securing water from the Colorado River, for all of Arizona... So, over 50 percent of Arizona farm acres are dependent upon Colorado River Water.”