Biden administration plans to protect water security in the West

More News Top Stories
Biden administration plans to protect water security in the West

Last week, the Biden administration announced the next steps to protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River Basin with funding from the Investing in America agenda and voluntary water conservation commitments which will save three-million-acre feet of water through 2026. 

The Department of the Interior (DOI), which has for months worked with state leaders on developing water conservation plans, issued a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) laying out two potential options: a no-action alternative and the proposed action to substantially restrict supplies in coming years. 

The proposal is to protect the Colorado River System and two key dams in response to falling water levels, Fox News reports. 

The revised draft SEIS includes two key updates: the Lower Basin states’ proposal as an action alternative, as well as improved hydrology and more recent hydrologic data. The release of the revised draft SEIS initiates a 45-day public comment period.

"Today, the Biden-Harris administration is taking another key action to bolster water resilience in the Basin States, leveraging historic investments from the president’s Investing in America agenda to build a more sustainable and equitable future for communities across the West," says Ali Zaidi, White House national climate advisor.

"The Colorado River Basin’s reservoirs, including its two largest storage reservoirs Lake Powell and Lake Mead, remain at historically low levels. Today’s advancement protects the system in the near term while we continue to develop long-term, sustainable plans to combat the climate-driven realities facing the Basin," added DOI Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton.

Related articles: Florida ag commissioner fighting to protect rural land from development

The draft SEIS published Oct. 25  rescinds two previous potential plans for Colorado River conservation that the DOI issued in April and replaces them with the proposed action derived from an agreement reached in May by the so-called Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada. The no-action alternative would maintain the status quo approach to conservation.

The May agreement would ensure that at least three  million acre-feet, or 978 billion gallons, of Colorado River water supplies — which feed the massive California agriculture industry and major jurisdictions like Phoenix — are conserved by 2027. Under that plan, at least half of that amount will be conserved by 2025.

The DOI said 2.3 million acre-feet of the conserved water under the proposal would be funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, the Democratic climate and tax legislation President Biden signed last year. The remaining 0.7 million acre-feet would be made via voluntary, uncompensated reductions by the three Lower Basin states.

"Throughout the past year, our partners in the seven basin states have demonstrated leadership and unity of purpose in helping achieve the substantial water conservation necessary to sustain the Colorado River System through 2026," Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement Oct. 25. 

"Thanks to their efforts and historic funding from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we have staved off the immediate possibility of the system’s reservoirs from falling to critically low elevations that would threaten water deliveries and power production."

Subscribe to our newsletter