Securing the Colorado River’s Future: Short & Long Term Conservation Plan

The Biden administration announced a significant milestone on Mar. 5th, 2024 to protect the Colorado River System. The goal is both immediate relief and long-term solutions.

Short-Term Gains:

  • Record-breaking conservation efforts, driven by President Biden's Investing in America agenda, have reduced the risk of critically low water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell.
  • A final environmental impact statement (EIS) reflects a consensus plan with Colorado Basin states to conserve at least 3 million acre-feet of water by 2026.
  • New agreements with California water districts and ongoing collaboration with Mexico further bolster conservation efforts.

Long-Term Vision:

  • While these short-term solutions provide a reprieve, long-term planning is underway.
  • New water management guidelines will be developed to replace expiring ones in 2026. This multi-year process, relying on the best science, will involve public input and create adaptable strategies for future water use.
  • Additionally, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates $8.3 billion for water infrastructure projects like purification, storage, and desalination.

Moving forward:

Collaboration is critical, especially between the seven basin states. The Biden administration has acknowledged the contributions of Basin states, Tribes, water managers, and other stakeholders, but much more water conservation must be done and the Colorado River System remains at a critical juncture.

The Biden administration's commitment to collaboration, funding, and science-based planning is laying the groundwork for a more secure future.

However, navigating the challenges ahead requires continued stakeholder engagement and robust long-term strategies. We shall know more about how this collaboration may look on Mar. 11th, 2024. 

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Shaina Shay is an accomplished water professional with over a decade of experience in water policy, management, conservation, and community outreach. Her passion for pragmatic information sharing drives her work across the U.S. and Australia, where she has held roles with investor-owned utilities and as a senior water market specialist. Shaina's commitment to the field is reflected in her leadership positions within the American Water Works Association (AWWA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Southern Arizona Water Users Association (SAWUA).