News Feature | June 6, 2023

Following Historic Colorado River Agreement, Federal Funding To Fuel Drought Solutions In Arizona

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


Building on a historic agreement between the states that consume Colorado River water, the Biden administration is now allocating source water funding for one of the thirstiest regions of the country.

“The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation is finalizing eight new agreements in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas that will save up to 393,000-acre feet of water in Lake Mead, the Colorado River’s largest reservoir, through 2025,” The Hill reported. “Funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, these agreements will help finance system conservation and bolster reservoir storage volumes amid climate change-driven drought conditions.”

Following a long-fought agreement between the seven states that depend on Colorado River water, including Arizona, federal authorities are clearly eager to put specific water-saving measures into place. Local officials have indicated that the deal won’t affect Arizona’s consumers, as the water being conserved would have been used for groundwater storage. And in exchange, the cities will use the federal funding to find more sustainable sources of drinking water for the future.

“Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton described the new funding mechanism — called the Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program — as a ‘critical tool’ to ensure system-wide stability,” according to The Hill. “‘The projects funded under the program will help increase water conservation, improve water efficiency, and prevent the system’s reservoirs from falling to critically low elevations, threatening water deliveries and hydropower production,’ she said.”

In Phoenix, where the voluntary reductions are being rewarded with $60 million in federal funding, officials will use the money to explore potable reuse, for instance.

“[Phoenix Mayor Kate] Gallego announced the city would invest in an advanced water purification plant to convert wastewater into drinking water,” according to The Arizona Republic. “The plant could replace half of what Phoenix gets from the Colorado River water each year … The city also plans to reopen its Cave Creek Water Reclamation Plant and add advanced water purification technology there, too.”

To read more about how water systems are exploring innovative ways of overcoming drought, visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.