LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A federal plan to spend $210 million on water conservation programs includes $40 million for “conserving 500,000+ acre-feet of water over the next two years to stabilize the decline of Lake Mead.”
The plan also includes $10 million for efforts to suppress wildfires in the West.
“By funding efforts to address intensifying drought and wildfires, this administration is making among the largest investments in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “This legislation helps protect communities and ecosystems against the threat of wildland fire by making historic investments in drought relief, hazardous fuels management, and post-wildfire restoration activities.”
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) was an original co-sponsor of the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act, which was signed into law in 2019.
“Due to intense drought brought on by climate change, we’ve seen Lake Mead reach its lowest level of water on record this year,” Rosen said. “I’m proud to have supported this funding, which will allow us to stabilize the water level at Lake Mead and mitigate the impact of the climate crisis here at home. I will continue fighting to see that Southern Nevada has the resources needed to protect our environment and ensure continued access to water.”
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) added that the funds will “help us keep water in Lake Mead and ensure that Southern Nevada has what our communities need.”
But the biggest chunk of the federal funding — $61.8 million — is going to California’s Central Valley Project to address ongoing drought needs.
The Lake Mead conservation funding comes on top of $10 million set aside this year, bringing to project to $50 million.
“Drought Contingency Plan” activities account for the majority of the Lake Mead funding, coming in at $26 million. An additional $14 million will go to shore up water rights for tribal communities that rely on the Central Arizona water supply.
The funding supports communities and ecosystems “in the short term,” according to a statement from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton.
The $210 million funding package also includes $35 million in contingency funds to address the most pressing and emerging drought-related needs over the next year.
The drought has made wildfires more frequent and extreme in recent years. Reclamation’s fire remediation and suppression activities include infrastructure repairs, debris removal, fire suppression, and water quality efforts.