Arizona’s water conservation plan will reduce Colorado River use

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Federal officials announced $64 million in new Colorado River water conservation deals with Arizona irrigators and tribes to keep reservoir supplies at safe levels. The deals use part of more than $4 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act earmarked for western drought relief.

Irrigators from the Yuma Mesa Irrigation and Drainage District agreed to accept $400 per acre-foot in federal compensation for leaving 72,477 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead from 2023 through 2025. The Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District agreed to those same terms on 42,303 acre-feet.

An acre-foot equates to nearly 326,000 gallons, which is enough to supply two or three Arizona households for a year.

Sarah Porter is the director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. She joined Arizona Horizon to discuss the plan.

“These entities that have a right to Colorado River water are being paid, basically, to leave their water in Lake Mead, the big reservoir that holds water for California, Arizona, southern Nevada and Mexico,” Porter said.

Porter explains that the entities have committed to not using the water.

“This is important because we need to be able to do long-term planning, so there’s a preference for three-year commitments for these entities to agree to, to use less water every year for three years,” Porter said. “What we’re trying to do here is ensure that the reservoir levels don’t fall so low that we get into the scary territory that we’ve talked about before where there wouldn’t be enough water to produce hydropower. Or even scarier, where the reservoir levels could get so low that water couldn’t be delivered off the reservoir at all.”

Sarah Porter, Director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy

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