State and Federal Agencies Announce $200 Million Investment in Lake Mead


State water agencies in Arizona, California and Nevada on Wednesday announced a $200 million investment in Colorado River conservation projects, in a last-ditch effort to prevent the basin’s largest reservoir. to decline to dangerously low levels.

The cross-border collaboration, which also includes the Department of the Interior, will aim to add an additional 500,000 acre-feet of water to Lake Mead – the Colorado River’s largest reservoir – in 2022 and 2023, facilitating initiatives that promote the water conservation in the lower Colorado River basin, according to the partners.

This additional water, enough to supply 1.5 million homes each year, would raise the level of the reservoir by 16 feet, according to a news release from the agencies.

“Two decades of drought on the Colorado River are wreaking havoc in the basin and on Lake Mead,” U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said in a statement. “Working together, we have avoided these historic lows for years, through collaboration and conservation in the lower basin. But we need even more action, and we need it now.

The partners – the Bureau of Reclamation, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Southern Nevada Water Authority – signed a memorandum of understanding during the annual meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association. conference in Las Vegas.

Under the agreement, called “the 500+ plan,” the Arizona Department of Water Resources will commit up to $40 million to the initiative over two years, CAP, Metropolitan and Southern Nevada Water Authority each contributing up to $20 million. The federal government has pledged to match those pledges, for total funding of $200 million, the news release said.

Some agricultural and urban conservation efforts detailed in the agreement include funding crop fallowing to save water, as well as city conservation programs to reduce diversions from Lake Mead.

The 500+ plan also underscores a key component of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which President Biden signed into law last month. The bill, the partners noted, includes an $8.3 billion investment in water infrastructure, which aims to minimize the impacts of drought and create a long-term plan for conservation and economic growth.

Arizona, California and Nevada – the three lower basin states – had already come together in 2019 to sign the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), agreeing to provide water to the Lake Mead if it decreased to certain levels, the partners noted.

“We had hoped that the contributions made under the DCP would be sufficient to stabilize Lake Mead while we searched for longer-term solutions to the challenges of the Colorado River,” Metropolis Chief Executive Adel Hagekhalil said. “But they’re not, which is why we’re moving forward with the 500+ plan.”

While the 2019 DCP negotiations lasted more than five years, the partnership of more than 500 “came together in a matter of months,” according to Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.

“This alone is a powerful testament to the commitment of lower basin states to work with our Reclamation partners to protect this vital river system,” Buschatzke said.

And while the past few months “have presented enormous challenges with the added pressure of the need to work quickly”, CAP Managing Director Ted Cooke added that “this difficult situation has further strengthened our relationship”.


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