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States strike deal with Biden to conserve Colorado River water

One of the Callville Bay marina boat ramps no longer reaches the water April 16, 2023 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada.

Rj Sangosti | Medianews Group | The Denver post via Getty Images

The Biden administration announced on Monday that it has reached a deal with Colorado River-dependent states to temporarily reduce their water usage in exchange for at least $1 billion in federal funding, a deal that comes after months negotiations and missed deadlines to protect the drought-stricken river.

Under the agreement, California, Arizona and Nevada will voluntarily conserve 3 million acre-feet of water through 2026, or about 13% of those states’ total allocation from the river. . The Biden administration will compensate cities, water districts, Native American tribes and farmers for 2.3 million acre-feet of savings through funding from the Inflation Reduction Act. (An acre-foot of water is roughly what two average households consume per year.)

The Colorado River supplies water to more than 40 million people and approximately 5.5 million acres of farmland in seven US states. But a combination of prolonged drought, declining reservoir levels and increased demand has strained the river. The river’s main reservoirs, including Lake Mead and Lake Powell, have seen dramatic drops in water levels.

“This is an important step towards our shared goal of charting a sustainable course for the basin that millions call home,” Office of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said.

California has the largest water allocation from the Colorado River, with approximately 4.4 million acre-feet annually, or about 29% of the total allocation. Arizona receives about 2.8 million acre-feet per year, or about 18% of the total allocation. Nevada’s allocation is approximately 300,000 acre-feet each year, which is approximately 2% of the total allocation.

The temporary agreement will avoid a situation where the federal government imposes unilateral water cuts on all seven states.

The administration also agreed on Monday to withdraw its environmental analysis from last month that would have required states to cut nearly 2.1 million additional acre-feet of water use in 2024. Today’s plan will be finalized after the Home Office has conducted an environmental review.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to working with states, tribes and communities across the West to find consensus-based solutions to climate change and drought. persistent,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

In January, after negotiations stalled yet again, six states submitted a proposal to the Bureau of Reclamation that outlined ways to reduce water use, taking into account water lost to evaporation and leaky infrastructure. California has released its own plan.

The Biden administration has previously urged the seven states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — to save between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet of water, or up to a third of the average river flow.

Photo taken on March 13, 2023 shows the Colorado River near the Hoover Dam on the Arizona-Nevada border in the United States. The Colorado River, the parched lifeline of the southwestern United States, which supplies water to some 40 million people in seven states, received a shock in the arm in the winter of 2022-23 thanks to the snowpack that melts and swells streams and rivers.

Xinhua News Agency | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images


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