Wed, 29 Nov 2023

WASHINGTON D.C.: Seven US states that depend upon the Colorado River, which provides drinking water for 40 million people and irrigation for some of the country's most prosperous farmland, agreed to reduce consumption and conserve the waterway, under an agreement brokered by the Biden administration.

Through the end of 2026, Arizona, California and Nevada, which make up the Lower Basin states of the century-old Colorado River Compact, will reduce intake by 3.7 billion cubic meters, equal to 13 percent of their river allotment.

The four Upper Basin states are Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The agreement enables the implementation of a three-year plan for distributing water rights starting in 2024, without which the federal government might have imposed cuts and provoke subsequent lawsuits.

The agreement, billed by the states as a "historic success," followed a year of intense negotiations, amid this year's heavy rains that filled reservoirs and packed the mountains with snow.

The Biden administration will also provide $1.2 billion in grants under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which will compensate local water districts, cities and Native American tribes for reducing their water consumption.

Estevan Lopez, New Mexico's signatory to the deal as the state's commissioner to the river compact, said, "This year's hydrology was really important, and not only the rains in California. That made this possible, along with the funding from the IRA," as quoted by Reuters.

Meanwhile, John Entsminger, Nevada's representative, said, "There are significantly more difficult things in the future that are going to have to be agreed to."

The river has been further strained by rapid population growth and a historic drought this century that threatened to bring reservoir levels below the intake valves that deliver water downstream and cut off hydroelectric production.

Officials now acknowledge there will be less Colorado River water available in the 21st century than there was in the 20th, Entsminger said.

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