DOI agreement to save 100,000 acre-feet of Colorado River System water

Dec. 6, 2023
An agreement between the Department of the Interior and the Imperial Irrigation District will conserve roughly 100,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead in 2023.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced an agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) that will conserve roughly 100,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead in 2023.

The agreement includes approximately $77.6 million in new investments to fund projects for water conservation, water efficiency, and protection of critical environmental resources in the Colorado River System this year.

The investments are administered through the Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program and funded by the Inflation Reduction Act.

In addition, Reclamation and IID continue to work on an agreement for years 2024 through 2026. Combined, the IID agreements over the next three years are expected to achieve up to 800,000 acre-feet of system water conservation to shore-up elevations in Lake Mead for the benefit of the Colorado River System and the over 40 million people who rely on it.

“We are grateful for the Imperial Irrigation District’s leadership and partnership as we worked to execute this agreement,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “Addressing the drought crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck moment and close collaboration among federal, state, Tribal and local communities. IID’s commitment to system conservation is vital as we work to strengthen the stability of the entire Colorado River Basin.”

The IID agreement is in addition to the 18 recently announced agreements executed in Arizona that commit water entities to conserve up to 348,680-acre feet of water in Lake Mead in 2023, and up to 984,429-acre feet through 2026. The agreements are part of the 3 million acre-feet of system conservation commitments made by the Lower Basin states, 2.3 million acre-feet of which will be compensated through funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Reclamation is investing another $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects, including water purification and reuse, water storage and conveyance, desalination, and dam safety.

As a result of the commitment to record volumes of conservation in the Basin, as well as recent hydrology, Interior Department announced in October that the chance of falling below critical elevations has been reduced to eight percent at Lake Powell and four percent at Lake Mead through 2026. Lake Mead is currently about 40 feet higher than it was projected to be at this time last year.

To date, the Interior Department has announced the following investments for Colorado River Basin states through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, which will yield hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water savings each year once these projects are complete:

  • $281 million for 21 water recycling projects that are expected to increase annual water capacity by 127,000 acre-feet annually;
  • Up to $233 million in water conservation funding for the Gila River Indian Community, including $83 million for a water pipeline project;
  • Over $73 million for infrastructure repairs on water delivery systems; $19.3 million in fiscal year 2022 and another $54 million announced in April 2023;
  • $71 million for 32 drought resiliency projects to expand access to water through groundwater storage, rainwater harvesting, aquifer recharge and water treatment;
  • $50 million over the next five years to improve key water infrastructure and enhance drought-related data collection across the Upper Colorado River Basin; and
  • $20 million in new small surface and groundwater storage