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Colorado River negotiations reach short-term resolution

A blue-gray reservoir cradled in rocky cliffs, with the twin towers of Hoover Dam exposed high above the waterline.
Associated Press | John Locher
Lake Mead, along with Lake Powell, hit historic lows in 2022 as extreme drought threatens the Colorado River.

The federal government indicated its support on Tuesday for a plan hammered out by the Lower Basin states to conserve water in the Colorado River over the next three years. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.
Last May, Arizona, Nevada and California proposed a 1.2 billion dollar federally funded plan to cut their water use by 3-million-acre feet. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation formalized that plan in an environmental impact statement released on Tuesday.

Reclamation Commissioner Camille Toutin spoke at a press conference about the need for collaboration in the face of drought and climate change. "It hasn’t always been easy or simple, but through it all, everyone across the Basin has been remained united in our shared understanding that we could not, and will not, solve this crisis unless we do so together."

The new plan doesn’t require cuts from the Upper Basin states. It and other shortage-sharing agreements will expire in 2026, and negotiations are now underway for river management beyond that date.

The Great Basin Water Network and Living Rivers released a statement saying, “While this near-term deal provides respite for water users, there is reason for long-term concern.” The environmental groups point to federal projections that show dropping elevations in Lake Mead through the end of next year.

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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