Lower Basin states reach deal to conserve Colorado River water 

May 23, 2023

The three Colorado River Lower Basin states—Arizona, California, and Nevada—have agreed to voluntarily conserve three million acre-feet of water over the next three years, in exchange for $1.2 billion in compensation from the federal government. That amounts to around 13 percent of the states’ total allocation from the river.

Most of the cuts, 2.3 million acre-feet, will come from water districts, farm operators, cities, and Native American tribes that have agreed to take less water in order to qualify for federal grants offered under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Arizona, California, and Nevada will decide where the remaining 700,000 acre-feet of cuts will come from in the coming months. If the states don’t identify those additional cuts, the Interior Department says it will withhold the water.

The announcement comes just eight days before a deadline set by the federal government for the states to submit comments on an Interior Department proposal that would have made deep cuts to either California or Arizona’s Colorado River water.

But the agreement is not a done dealThe Interior Department will now analyze it and open it to public comment. There is no timeline yet for that process, but the cuts will likely begin this year.

Quick hits

Lower Basin states reach deal to conserve Colorado River water

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Quote of the day

”Getting outside is getting more complicated for everyday Coloradans, and there are continued looming threats of development and privatization of public lands by polluters and the politicians they fund. That’s why we can no longer wait on Congress to act, or for anti-conservation county commissioners to have a change of heart. President Biden must boldly use the Antiquities Act, one of the most powerful conservation tools a president has, to protect these special places.”

Kerry Donovan, former president pro tempore of the Colorado State Senate

Picture this

infographic showing colorado river water use

The majority of the water in the Colorado River basin—more than one trillion gallons—is used to grow feed for livestock, connecting the region’s water crisis to how much dairy and meat we eat.

(featured image: Lake Mead at Hoover Dam, October 2021; APK/Wikimedia Commons)