Western states willing to cut down on Colorado River use

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Western states willing to cut down on Colorado River use

California, Nevada, and Arizona have reached a short-term deal with the Biden Administration to reduce their water usage of the Colorado River, in an effort to keep it from going dry after two decades of drought

The deal, a $1.2 billion plan from the federal government will conserve an additional 3 million acre-feet of water through 2026, ensuring the river can continue providing drinking water and generating power. 

Drought mitigation investment would involve paying farmers not to plant fields temporarily.

Nearly 40 million people rely on the 1,450-mile river for drinking water, and electricity for seven states is generated by dams on Lake Mead and Lake Powell, both of which are reaching “dead pool” status, meaning that water levels would be too low to pass through the dams.

Related article: Western water on the precipice

For experts, this is a necessary yet temporary deal, assisted by this year’s increased rainfall which gave a little break to the year’s long drought affecting the river. However, if similar rainfall does not continue in future years, bigger cutdowns will need to be made in order to save the river. 

The deal prevents a political predicament for the Biden administration, which would have been compelled to enforce cuts unilaterally if the states could not negotiate an agreement among themselves. 

In a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation, the governors of California, Arizona and Nevada said they hoped the new agreement would allow negotiations to “pivot to discussions on post-2026 operations that will address the impacts of climate change on system water supply availability and the existing overallocation of water.”

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