CALIFORNIA (KABC) -- With the Colorado River in crisis, there is still no agreement over which states and regions should have their water allocations cut back and how soon those cuts should go into effect.
Seven states in the western United States take water from the Colorado River, and although six of them have agreed on a framework, the lone holdout is the largest user of Colorado River water in the county: California.
"We spent a lot of hours trying to compromise," said Bill Hasencamp, the Colorado River resources manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. "Ultimately, we couldn't quite get there."
With the water level at the largest reservoir in the country, Lake Mead, reaching a historic low last summer, the federal government ordered the seven states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) that use water to collectively cut back water usage by 2 million to 4 million acre-feet.
Of the 15 million acre-feet originally allotted to the seven states each year by an agreement known as the "law of the river," California gets 4.4 million acre-feet.
Unless the seven states can come to an agreement, it is possible the federal government could arbitrarily step in and order states and regions to make mandatory cuts. It's something that will surely to be challenged in court.
What are the sticking points? Not only does California favor a more gradual level of cuts than the other states, but there are disagreements over issues such as evaporation.
For example, the other states want to see states like California, that get the majority of their Colorado River supplies from large reservoirs that are prone to significant evaporation, take more significant cuts than states upstream.
But Hasencamp said that ignores current agreements that are already codified in which states that have junior water rights should be cut back first.
"Anything that changes the flow of the river, there's a priority system, and the priority system is that Arizona takes the first reductions before California does," he said.
Hasencamp said the situation is not as dire as it appeared months ago, before several weather systems brought historic snowpack to the Sierra Nevada's in California. The Rocky Mountains also have snowpack at about 140% of normal right now.
Still, with the western United States still enduring the driest 20 year period in approximately 1,200 years, Hasencamp knows that the states need to find some solution before Lake Mead drops to what is known as "dead pool," in which California would not get any water from the Colorado River.
"It's challenging but the risks are so high we have to be successful."