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California could cut water use from the Colorado River by as much as 20%

California could cut water use from the Colorado River by as much as 20%

More water restrictions likely as California pledges to cut use of Colorado River supply

California Gov. Jerry Brown has said the state is considering a proposal to cut water use from certain rivers of the western United States by as much as 20% in an attempt to save water and fight climate change.

As a part of the proposal, which could cost as much as $2.6 billion, Brown wants to require that water users in high-elevation northern California reduce their usage of the state’s largest water source, the Central Valley Project, by 25%.

Brown said Monday at his first weekly news conference since he was re-elected as governor a week ago that the move was possible but would take years to make a dramatic impact.

“We can’t put a switch on and start reducing use now,” he said. “But we can take steps now.”

Water users in other parts of the United States could be affected by similar regulations, California officials said, but it’s not certain which other states could benefit from the plan.

Environmental groups are more concerned that California might not be able to cut its use of the Colorado River to 20% of its pre-drought levels. Water shortages have killed off large fish in Lake Mead after a prolonged drought.

“We are doing everything we can, and the most water we could possibly put into the Colorado River is 80 percent. The state of California has never had 80 percent for that river or for the valley, nor should they have never had 80 percent,” said Dan Hirsch, executive director of Friends of the River.

“If they could not get that down to 20 percent, to be clear, they could not get it down to 80 percent,” he said.

Brown’s proposal is one of several water-related policy proposals expected to be presented to the Democratic-controlled Legislature the next two months by a coalition called the Water Innovation Task Force. Environmentalists and other critics are concerned that the proposal could water-wasting practices by farmers and cities while watering down efforts to cut carbon emissions in the effort to fight climate change.

The groups say the proposal was inspired by previous efforts to reduce water use

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