Reclamation endorses states plan for near-term Colorado River conservation

Reclamation endorsed the basin states' proposal to update the current interim operating guidelines for the near-term operation of Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, Washington, D.C., released a final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement focused on updating the interim operating guidelines for Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams.  

The update is in response to the ongoing drought and aims to address impacts from climate change on the Colorado River System. The SEIS outlines a plan developed in collaboration with the seven Colorado Basin states to conserve at least 3 million acre-feet of water by the end of 2026 when the current guidelines expire. 

“Reclamation is grateful to our partners across the Basin – including the Basin states governor’s representatives, the 30 Basin Tribes, water managers, farmers and irrigators, municipalities, power contractors, non-governmental organizations, and other partners and stakeholders – for their unprecedented level of collaboration throughout this process,” says Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “As we move forward, supported by historic investments from the president’s Investing in America agenda, we will continue working collaboratively to ensure we have long-term tools and strategies in place to help guide the next era of the Colorado River Basin.” 

Additionally, the department has announced new agreements with California water entities to conserve up to 399,153 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead through 2026. Progress has also been made with Mexico regarding additional conservation of Colorado River System water, according to the bureau. 

The preferred alternative in the SEIS includes measures to reduce water releases from Lake Powell under certain conditions to conserve water and maintain system integrity. These efforts are part of a broader initiative to address the reduced water levels in the Colorado River System’s reservoirs, which are critical for water deliveries and power production. 

The bureau has also highlighted the collaborative effort involving states, tribes, and other stakeholders across the Colorado River Basin to reach this agreement. The initiative is supported by funding allocated for water conservation projects, including those under the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, aimed at enhancing water efficiency and infrastructure. 

The SEIS process is part of ongoing long-term efforts to develop new operational guidelines for the Colorado River Basin starting in 2027. This multi-year process will explore various alternatives to determine future operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, among other water management actions, to provide stability for water users throughout the basin. The draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected by the end of 2024, with a final EIS anticipated in late 2025, leading to a Record of Decision in early 2026. 

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