ARIZONA NEWS

Biden announces nearly $64 million investment to protect Arizona’s Colorado River

Nov 3, 2023, 4:00 PM

A bathtub ring of light minerals shows the high water line of Lake Mead near water intakes on the A...

A bathtub ring of light minerals shows the high water line of Lake Mead near water intakes on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Boulder City, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

PHOENIX — The Biden-Harris administration announced $63.4 million in new investments Friday as part of the president’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 Friday 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,” Secretary Deb Haaland said in a release. “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,” Commissioner Touton said in a release. “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 announced Friday it will commit water entities in Arizona to conserving water in the Colorado River System. Water entities entering into these agreements include:

Annual Conservation Volumes (Acre-Feet)* 
Contractor    2023  2024  2025 Total
Yuma Mesa Irrigation and Drainage District 23,197 24,640 24,640 72,477
Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District 12,819 14,742 14,742 42,303
San Carlos Apache Tribe 23,275 23,275
Hopi Tribe 3,059 3,059 3,059 9,177
Cibola Valley Irrigation and Drainage District 2,700 2,700 2,700 8,100
Spanish Trails Water ** 2,400 2,400 7,200
Cathcart Farms 57 61 61 178
*Volumes are “up to” annual volumes in AF
**Term of this agreement runs from 2024-2026, with up to 2,400 acre-feet committed each year.

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 announced Friday 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 2022 and 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.

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Biden announces nearly $64 million investment to protect Arizona’s Colorado River