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Water Allocation in West Virginia Could Save Lives

Water Allocation in West Virginia Could Save Lives

New push to shore up shrinking Colorado River could reduce water flow to California and the west coast

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ST. GEORGETOWN, W.Va. — As the West Virginia Legislature prepares to consider water allocation legislation, a new proposal could have a significant impact on water use in the state. A bill introduced by state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Harrison, would allow the state to divert water that is now being used or stored in the West Virginia portion of the Colorado River to the lower Colorado River Authority.

Samples taken by U.S. Geological Survey showed the Colorado River is at a point of no return. The water is no longer capable of sustaining fish and wildlife in the river system, or providing drinking water to people and businesses on either side of the divide. A major shift is required to change course and move away from the status quo, but the only path has been one with deep political and financial repercussions from the past and the future.

Since the 1940s, the Colorado River has been a major source of water for the economy and people downstream, as well as the economies in cities in the middle. However, the river is no longer able to provide the water and natural resources needed for the long-term healthy growth of the state.

State water management officials hope this new legislation will save lives across the state.

“It’s really important now to get that legislation passed and water allocated,” said Jennifer Bock, director of West Virginia’s Office of Water. “If we had done this earlier, some of the impacts people are experiencing now might not have been as severe.”

Bock said the legislation creates a balance between two competing interests.

One is the economic and cultural impacts on West Virginia and the state. The other is the water quality, especially in the southern section of the river, where a few years ago, the water was too acidic and not safe for drinking.

“A healthy river has the ability to meet the needs of everyone

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