The Biden-Harris administration has announced $63.4 million in new investments as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for water conservation, water efficiency, and protection of critical environmental resources in the Colorado River System. The investments, which will improve and protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System now and into the future, are administered through the Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program and funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in history.
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton joined federal, Tribal and state leaders in Phoenix to announce the execution of seven new system conservation agreements in Arizona, which will conserve up to 162,710-acre feet of water in Lake Mead through 2026. The conservation agreements will help finance voluntary system conservation to protect Colorado River reservoir storage volumes amid persistent drought conditions driven by climate change.
The new conservation agreements build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement of a historic consensus-based proposal to conserve at least 3 million-acre feet of Colorado River System water through the end of 2026, when the current operating guidelines are set to expire.
“Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program is helping address, improve and protect the long-term stability of the Colorado River System,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “The Biden-Harris administration is using every tool and resource at our disposal to continue our sustained, collaborative progress in increasing water conservation across the West.”
“Addressing the drought crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck moment, and close collaboration among federal, state, Tribal and local communities. We are excited to see so many Arizona entities committing to system conservation and partnership,” said Commissioner Touton. “Together, we can come together to find solutions to meet the challenges of these unprecedented drought conditions.”
New Conservation Agreements
The System Conservation Implementation Agreements will commit water entities in Arizona to conserving water in the Colorado River System. Water entities entering into these agreements include:
18 entities, including Tribal, state, municipalities and other water users, have entered into system conservation implementation agreements.
The three-year agreements provide $400 for each acre-foot that contractors do not use from their allotment of Central Arizona Project water, while the one-year agreement provides $330 for each acre-foot.
Historic Funding from Investing in America Agenda
President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is integral to these efforts to increase near-term water conservation, build long term system efficiency, and prevent the Colorado River System’s reservoirs from falling to critically low elevations that would threaten water deliveries and power production. Because of this funding, conservation efforts have already benefited the system this year.
The seven new agreements join eleven previously announced contracts in Arizona. In total, the 18 agreements executed in Arizona will commit water entities across the state to conserve up to 348,680-acre feet of water in Lake Mead in 2023, and up to 984,429-acre feet through 2026. Reclamation is working with its partners to finalize additional agreements.
These 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, which invests a total of $4.6 billion to address the historic drought across the West.
Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Reclamation is also investing another $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects, including water purification and reuse, water storage and conveyance, desalination and dam safety.
To date, the Interior Department has announced the following investments for Colorado River Basin states, which will yield hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water savings each year once funded projects are complete:
* $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 2022and another $54 million announced in April 2023;
* $71 million for 32 drought resiliency projects to expand access to water through groundwater storage, rainwater harvesting, aquifer recharge and water treatment;
* $50 million over the next five years to improve key water infrastructure and enhance drought-related data collection across the Upper Colorado River Basin; and
* $20 million in new small surface and groundwater storage projects.