(FOX 13)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's negotiators over the Colorado River are feeling optimistic as they try to hammer out a new management agreement with other states and Mexico.

"In the last few meetings, we’ve made much progress in recognizing that we have to come up with the solution," Gene Shawcroft, who serves as the Colorado River Commissioner for Utah, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Watch the video on YouTube.

In March, FOX 13 News reported that Utah and other states were beginning negotiations over a new management plan for the Colorado River. Since then, Shawcroft said, the states have met several times and plan to keep meeting.

Some of the areas of agreement: Lower-basin states and Mexico have agreed to a reduction in the amount of water they take from the Colorado River. That was part of an agreement unveiled last year by California water districts and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

"We agree that we need to begin to operate the system based on actual conditions and not on forecast which are inherently unreliable," said Amy Haas, the executive director of the Colorado River Authority of Utah.

Faced with declines in the river and arguments that some states are using more water than they're entitled to, each state along the river has submitted its own plan to the federal government. But there is motive for the states to come up with their own management agreement: if they don't, the federal government or courts may do it for them.


There are certainly things in our proposal that are similar and that’s what we’re focusing on," said Shawcroft.

Politically speaking, what happens with the Colorado River negotiations will impact more than 40 million people across seven states, tribal lands and Mexico. Utah wants to ensure its use of the river is protected (a chunk of Colorado River water actually supplies a significant part of the Wasatch Front).

Utah political leaders have advanced ideas to get more water. For example, Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, has floated the idea of Utah possibly spending money for a desalination plant in California in exchange for some of that state's Colorado River water shares.

Asked about that idea, Shawcroft told FOX 13 News it is something that could be discussed down the road.

"That’s one of those thoughts that could occur and one of many, many things that will be looked at over the next several months," he said.

Fox 13 Reporter
Ben Winslow is FOX 13's reporter on Capitol Hill covering a wide variety of topics including politics, polygamy, vice and courts. He has been in the news business in Utah for more than 20 years now, working in radio, newspaper, television and digital news. Winslow has received numerous honors for his reporting, including a national Edward R. Murrow award; the Religion Newswriters Association Local TV News Report of the Year; the Utah Broadcaster's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Readers of Salt Lake City Weekly and Q Salt Lake have named him their "Best TV news reporter" for many years now. He co-hosts "Utah Booze News: An Alcohol Policy Podcast," covering the state's often confusing and quirky liquor laws. Winslow is also known for his very active Twitter account keeping Utahns up-to-date on important news.

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