LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The federal government will pay nearly $64 million in a three-year conservation effort to save water that will be stored in Lake Mead, according to a Friday announcement.
It’s the latest move by the Biden-Harris administration to ensure water supplies in the desert Southwest, where the Colorado River supplies water for people in Nevada, Arizona and California.
If all the water instantly appeared in Lake Mead, it would raise the lake by 2 feet, 2 and a half inches. But it will take three years to see that savings, according to the announcement made in Phoenix. The funds are from the Inflation Reduction Act, described as the largest climate investment in history.
A total of 162,710 acre-feet could be saved in the agreement with seven participants that include water districts, Native American tribes and a farm. The participants are listed below with the anticipated three-year water savings in parentheses:
- Yuma Mesa Irrigation and Drainage District (72,477 acre-feet)
- Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District (42,303)
- San Carlos Apache Tribe (23,275)
- Hopi Tribe (9,177)
- Cibola Valley Irrigation and Drainage District (8,100)
- Spanish Trails Water (7,200)
- Cathcart Farms (178)
An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre in water a foot deep. It is enough water to supply two to three households for an entire year. An acre-foot is equal to 325,581 gallons.
Divided over three years, the amount of water saved by the new agreements are enough to supply about 108,000 to 162,000 households each year.
The $63.4 million provided through the Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program will help pay for voluntary system conservation efforts.
The biggest savings come from the Yuma Mesa Irrigation and Drainage District, which supplies water to 25,000 acres at the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District, which provides water to the Fort Mohave area, extending from south of Bullhead City to the Needles, California, area.
“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,” Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said. “Together, we can come together to find solutions to meet the challenges of these unprecedented drought conditions.”
An official with the U.S. Department of the Interior said Oct. 25 that conservation agreements reached with Nevada, Arizona and California have reduced the risk of critically low water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead through 2026. That gives the Bureau of Reclamation the time it needs to put new policies in place to manage the Colorado River as it flows through the two largest reservoirs in the U.S.
A new agreement is expected to be announced in 2026 and will take effect in 2027.
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.