Nevada, Arizona, and California (the three states that draw water from Lake Mead) have reached an agreement to cut water use from the Colorado River in order to help keep this vital system that supplies water to 40 million people and millions of acres of farmland in seven US states and part of Mexico from collapsing. According to an article in The New York Times, the agreement requires “the federal government to pay about $1.2 billion to irrigation districts, cities and Native American tribes in the three states if they temporarily use less water”. However, the three states listed above have also agreed to cut water beyond what the federal government is asking for.

Nevada, Arizona, and California have agreed to cut 3 million acre-feet of water use over three years (the deal expires in 2026) which amounts to a cut in about 13% of the total water use in the lower Colorado River Basin. This is one of the biggest cuts to date in the region and will most likely require increased restrictions for farmers and residents. Still, it might not be enough. Yesterday’s article from The Nevada Independent notes, “While the 3 million acre-foot deal represents a significant cut over three years, it is far less than the 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of annual cuts the U.S. government said was necessary last year (an acre-foot is the volume of water that can fill roughly one football field to a depth of 1 foot).”

Many people point to the particularly wet winter we just had and the snow pack it produced as a possible solution to the water crisis but one winter of heavier rain and snowfall cannot undo the effects of many years of drought. Therefore, although this new deal is a great start, there remains much work to be done in order to keep the Colorado River water system sustainable longterm.

You can read the entire NY Times article here and the Indy article here.