Earlier this week, water agencies from Arizona, California and Nevada, along with the Department of the Interior, announced a new effort to invest up to $200 million in projects over the next two years to keep Lake Mead from dropping to critically low levels. The agreement, signed during the Colorado River Water Users Association’s annual conference this week, aims to add 500,000 acre-feet of additional water to Lake Mead in both 2022 and 2023 by conserving water across the Lower Colorado River Basin. The additional water would add about 16 feet total to the reservoir’s level, which continues to reach record low levels.
The new agreement, known as the “500+ Plan,” was agreed to by the Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Project, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Over the two years the agreement covers, ADWR committed up to $40 million, with CAP, Metropolitan and SNWA each contributing up to $20 million. The federal government plans to match those commitments, for a total funding pool of $200 million.
Some of the specific conservation actions and programs that will be implemented through the 500+ Plan have already begun, while others are still being identified. The MOU includes conservation efforts in both urban and agricultural communities, such as funding crop fallowing on farms to save water, including the recent approval of a short-term agricultural land fallowing program in California, or urban conservation to reduce diversions from Lake Mead.
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