Colorado River Users Arrive at Agreement
May 25, 2023 by Tina Cluver
This week, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Nevada Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the Lower Colorado River Basin States reached an agreement to conserve 3 million acre-feet of water over the next three years.
“Nevada has long been a leader in regional water conservation efforts, and we’re pleased to continue leading through this agreement with other Lower Basin States,” said Governor Joe Lombardo. “Through this partnership, we look forward to equitably advancing our mutual goal of conserving our shared water resources. It’s never been more important to protect the Colorado River System, and this partnership is a critical next step in our efforts to sustain this essential water supply.”
The Interior Department had previously requested reductions of 2 million acre-feet per year, but the negotiations, which at time were contentious, were unable to achieve this goal. However, the cutbacks represent about 326 billon gallons of water per year that would not be used. This stopgap measure doesn’t solve the long term crisis facing the region, but it will help in the short term.
The agreement calls for the federal government to pay approximately $1.2 billion in payouts to farmers and others who agree to relinquish some of their water supply over the next three years. Many consider this a band-aid and not a viable long term solution for the Colorado River users. Some critics have argued that the money would be better spent towards developing permanent measures to reduce use, particularly among agricultural users.
“Paying farmers to conserve water might make sense politically, but the $1.2 billion would be better spent on water projects to help the states become less reliant on the Colorado River permanently”, said David Zilberman, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley.
Additional reporting regarding the agreement and its details can be found via the Los Angeles Times HERE
(there may be a paywall).
The plan, which has been submitted to the Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation also has the support of all Seven Colorado River Basin States. It is still subject to federal review and approval.