Reclamation identifies three western river basins for implementation of basin study program

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WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 17, 2009 -- Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor today announced the implementation of a new Basin Study Program that will better define options for future water management of Western river basins where climate change, record drought, population increases and environmental needs have heightened competition for scarce water supplies.

Each study will include state of the art projections of future water supply and demand on a basin-wide scale, including an assessment of the impacts of climate change on water resources; analysis of how the basin's existing water and power operations and infrastructure will perform in the face of changing water realities; and recommendations on how to optimize operations and infrastructure to supply adequate water and power in the future while accounting for environmental values. Reclamation will provide a 50% cost share contribution to state, local and tribal partners to implement the studies.

The first three basin studies announced by Connor today include:

• The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study ($1 million Reclamation, $1 million matching) covering portions of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming;
• Yakima River Basin Study and Associated Basin Restoration Implementation Plan, covering south central Washington ($1.3 million Reclamation, $1.3 million matching); and
• Modeling for the Future of the Milk and St. Mary River Systems in north central and southern Montana ($350,000 Reclamation, $350,000 matching).

"Given today's challenges in the area of water resources, it is imperative that the federal government be a strong and reliable partner in working with state, tribal and local water managers," Connor said today. "The Bureau of Reclamation is addressing this need by partnering with key stakeholders to conduct comprehensive studies and create basin-specific plans recommending collaborative solutions that will meet water demands and foster sustainable development."

The Basin Study Program will incorporate the latest science, engineering technology, climate models and innovative approaches to water management. Options that will be evaluated in the studies include changes to the operation of water supply systems, modifications to existing facilities, development of new facilities, and non-structural strategies. The basin studies will generally be two years in duration.

The Program announcement follows Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's signing of a Secretarial Order earlier this week which details Interior's coordinated strategy to address the current and future impacts of climate change on America's diverse natural resources, including water.

The Program is part of the Water Conservation Initiative (WCI) and a key element of Reclamation's implementation of the SECURE Water Act, which was enacted into law as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. Components of the WCI include providing competitive financial assistance for water conservation, efficiency and marketing projects and other activities that enhance water management; conducting basin-wide planning studies that will address the impacts of climate change; and continued funding of water reuse and recycling projects.

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