The break through deal will hopefully keep the river from running dry.

Rafting down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park
Photo by Justin Bailie

The Colorado River is a vital source of water and electricity for the West, and is the mainline of both residential and farm life, particularly in the dry Lower Basin states of Arizona, California, and Nevada. But drought and overuse have left the river dangerously low in recent years, threatening the flow of water that fuels country’s largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, which are critical generators of power. Today, the federal government reached an agreement on cuts, aided by a wet winter and $1.2 billion in federal payments, that will expire at the end of 2026 in hopes that it will prevent what was feared to be the drying up of the nearly 1,500 mile long river.

“There are 40 million people, seven states, and 30 Tribal Nations who rely on the Colorado River Basin for basic services such as drinking water and electricity. Today’s announcement is a testament to the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to working with states, Tribes and communities throughout the West to find consensus solutions in the face of climate change and sustained drought,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

Basin state commissioners, Tribes, irrigators, local communities, and stakeholders worked together to come to this critical conclusion in an effort to protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System. It is one of the most aggressive efforts in history, and will result in the saving of 13 percent of the water use in the Basin. And it’s a necessary one. The Colorado River supplies drinking water to 40 million Americans as well as part of Mexico, and irrigates 5.5 million acres of farmland.

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How each state will make these cuts will be determined by the Interior Department in the months to come. Thankfully, California experienced record breaking snowpack this winter which will help alleviate the cuts in the coming year. It remains to be seen what measures will be taking through the agreement’s end in 2026.

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