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Science and Innovations

Gila River Indian Community Leaves Water in Lake Mead

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The Gila River Indian Community has agreed to leave forty thousand acre feet of its Colorado River water in Lake Mead. The goal is to stave off future shortages. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The tribe received six million dollars in exchange for leaving the water in Lake Mead. The payment came from the state of Arizona, city of Phoenix, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Walton Family Foundation.  

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, says the agreement is part of a larger “drought contingency plan.” He says, "I like to say, we need an all hands on deck approach, because the issues facing us on the river are big issues. There is no silver bullet."

Buschatzke says the extra water amounts to half a foot of elevation in Lake Mead. Mandatory cutbacks kick in if the lake’s level drops to 1,075 feet. It’s currently about four feet above that. 

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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