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USBR Announces a Total of 18 Colorado River Conservation Agreements with Arizona Entities

Representatives of major Arizona water users, including cities and tribes, gathered with the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation and Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs at Phoenix City Hall on Nov. 3 to celebrate the execution of new Colorado River system conservation agreements in Arizona.

At the Phoenix event, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton announced the execution of seven new system conservation agreements in Arizona, which will conserve up to 162,710-acre feet of water in Lake Mead through 2026.

“The voluntary system conservation implementation agreements will help increase water conservation, improve water efficiency and help prevent Lake and Powell from falling to critically low elevations,” said Commissioner Touton.

In total, the Bureau now has inked 18 agreements with Arizona water users, including tribes, cities, agricultural users and irrigation districts.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs observed that the conservation efforts are important to Arizona’s economic future: “I knew that we had to take action to make our state’s booming economy sustainable.”

“Almost every challenge has a solution if you’re willing to bring people together to tackle the issue head on. And that’s exactly what everyone here today has done,” she said.

The 18 agreements executed thus far in Arizona will commit water entities across the state to conserve up to 348,680-acre feet of water in Lake Mead in 2023, and up to 984,429 acre-feet through 2026, according to the Bureau Commissioner.

ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke observed that in recent years extraordinary measures have become necessary to stabilize the Colorado River system, in particular Lake Mead.

“As it has so often, Arizona has responded to that call for extraordinary measures. The entities represented here today have committed to conservation efforts – and Arizona entities came together this year to sign conservation efforts – that will substantially achieve the goal of protecting the Colorado River through 2026, at which time new operating guidelines will take effect.”

In addition to Governor Hobbs, Commissioner Touton and Director Buschatzke, the leaders participating in the event included Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson; Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers; Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega; Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego; Lower Colorado River Basin Deputy Regional Director Dave Arend; Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis; San Carlos Apache Tribe Vice Chairman Tao Etpison; and Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board President Terry Goddard.

As described by the Bureau, which operates the river system, the agreements will help finance voluntary system conservation to protect Colorado River reservoir storage volumes amid persistent drought conditions driven by climate change.

In a press statement, the Bureau observed that these new conservation volumes will build on the recent 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.

The $63.4 million in new conservation investments announced Nov. 3 is administered through the Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program and funded by the Inflation Reduction Act.