Interior announces new Colorado River System conservation agreements

Dec. 18, 2023
The Department of the Interior has reached conservation agreements with several California water agencies, with the potential to conserve up to 643,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead through 2025.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced agreements with several California water agencies to conserve up to 643,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead through 2025.

The agreements include approximately $295 million in new investments, which will fund projects for water conservation, water efficiency and protection of critical environmental resources in the Colorado River System.

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton joined federal, Tribal and state leaders in Nevada to announce the execution of the new water conservation agreements, including an agreement with the Coachella Valley Water District to save up to 105,000 acre-feet of water through 2025 and an agreement with the Quechan Indian Tribe to save up to 39,000 acre-feet through 2025.

The event also commemorated a recently signed agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District to conserve approximately 100,000 acre-feet of water in 2023.

The leaders announced that additional system conservation agreements with the Palo Verde Irrigation District, Bard Water District – in cooperation with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – and a second agreement with the Coachella Valley Water District are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

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

“These agreements represent another critical step in our collective efforts to address the water management challenges the Colorado River Basin faces due to drought and climate change,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “Addressing the drought crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and close collaboration among federal, state, Tribal and local communities. When we work together, we can find solutions to meet the challenges of these unprecedented drought conditions.”

The announced California conservation agreements join 18 water conservation implementation agreements with critical partners in Arizona, including state agencies, Tribes, and agricultural and municipal water users, which commits 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.

As a result of the commitment to record volumes of conservation in the Basin, as well as recent hydrology, the Interior Department announced in October 2023 that the chance of falling below critical elevations has been reduced to 8% at Lake Powell and 4% at Lake Mead through 2026. Lake Mead is currently about 40 feet higher than it was projected to be at this time last year.