In a last minute deal reached before the May 30 deadline, federal officials have agreed to pay westerners to use less water from the Colorado River. This has paused the impending mandatory cuts – for now.
Department of Interior officials indicate that the agreement should protect the Colorado River from reaching “deadpool” – when the reservoir levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead are so low that the water can no longer flow downstream (not to mention, generate hydropower) through 2026, and additional negotiations will need to continue in the immediate future.
Thirty Tribal nations and seven states depend on the Colorado River for life-giving water and electricity. “Failure is not an option,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau.
The Inflation Reduction Act has several provisions to work toward climate resiliency and Colorado River sustainability, totaling $4.6 billion. Investments announced by the Department of the Interior include:
- $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 and an additional $50 million from the Inflation Reduction Act through the Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program, which will also provide similar investments in 2024 and 2025
- Over $73 million for infrastructure repairs on water delivery systems, $19.3 million in fiscal year 2022 and another $54 million announced last week.
- $71 million for 32 drought resiliency projects to expand access to water through groundwater storage, rainwater harvesting, aquifer recharge and water treatment
- $10 million in new water storage investments