Arizona, California, Nevada Propose New Approach for Post-2026 Colorado River Operations

March 6, 2024

Arizona Department of Water Resources: Doug MacEachern, 602-510-0104
Colorado River Board of California: Jessica Neuwerth, 818-254-3202
Southern Nevada Water Authority: Bronson Mack, 702-822-8543

Alternative addresses the impacts of drought and climate change through a holistic and sustainable approach to the coordinated operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead that improves predictability for water users

The Lower Basin States in the Colorado River Basin today jointly submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) a proposed alternative for long-term Colorado River operations that would help ensure the river system’s health and sustainability for decades to come. [Download Lower Basin post-2026 alternative letter]

The alternative, drafted collaboratively by Arizona, California and Nevada, is designed to provide for sustainable management of the system under a very broad range of future conditions that have been exacerbated by drought and climate change. It reflects a new and more holistic approach to Colorado River management, in which required reductions are based on the health of seven major system reservoirs.

Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke, Colorado River Commissioner for California JB Hamby, and Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) General Manager John Entsminger jointly submitted the alternative to Reclamation as part of the federal agency’s process to develop new post-2026 operating guidelines for the river.

“The Lower Basin Alternative submitted today to Reclamation represents a serious commitment to the health of the Colorado River. The magnitude of these reductions is both difficult and necessary,” said ADWR Director Buschatzke, Arizona’s designated representative on Colorado River issues. “This is our commitment to working with our river partners to protect the Colorado River from Wyoming to Mexico.”

The alternative creates a path toward greater long-term stability in a river system wracked in recent decades by the effects of drought, climate change, and over-allocation, which have required additional proactive efforts such as the 2019 Drought Contingency Plans and more dramatic efforts in 2022-2023 to protect the system from reaching critically low elevations.

Importantly, as part of the alternative, users at and downstream of Lake Mead would reduce uses of Colorado River water by 1.5 million acre-feet each year under a broad range of conditions to address the structural deficit and future aridification caused by climate change. The structural deficit causes Lake Mead to decline annually, even under normal releases from Lake Powell upstream. Water lost to evaporation and river seepage in the Lower Basin contributes to this annual decline. A recent Reclamation report estimates these losses total about 1.3 million acre-feet annually within the Lower Basin.

“While addressing the structural deficit in the Lower Basin is a critical step in stabilizing the Colorado River, developing durable, long-lasting solutions requires all water uses to manage demands and commit to water conservation,” said SNWA General Manager John Entsminger, Nevada’s representative on the Colorado River. “Providing a framework that would better align future water demands with available supplies, the Lower Basin Alternative provides greater protections for the river and more certainty for its users.”

If system conditions deteriorate further, all water users would collectively participate in the solution. Under the Lower Basin Alternative, those additional reductions, beyond the initial 1.5 million acre-feet that would be solely assigned to the Lower Basin and Mexico, would be shared between the Upper and Lower basins and Mexico – up to a total of 3.9 million acre-feet of reductions.

“The Lower Basin Alternative creates resiliency and proposes climate change is a shared responsibility of all those that depend on the Colorado River,” said Colorado River Commissioner JB Hamby. “We need new ways of thinking to solve problems that have been unresolved for nearly a century and solutions for future challenges like climate change and extended drought — that’s what the Lower Basin Alternative does. Each basin, state, and sector must contribute to solving the challenges ahead. No one who benefits from the river can opt out of saving it.”

The alternative links Colorado River use to storage volumes contained within multiple Upper and Lower Basin reservoirs, ensuring that current and future water uses remain balanced with supplies. Unlike the current guidelines, which are based on Lake Mead and Lake Powell elevations, the Lower Basin states propose basing reductions on the volumes of water contained within seven Upper and Lower basin reservoirs.

This total system contents method performs better at protecting critical reservoir elevations than today’s operations, provides more certainty in addressing the effects of climate change, and largely eliminates the use of forecasts from decision-making on reduction volumes.

The alternative also proposes new release criteria for water from Lake Powell to Lake Mead.  These criteria are streamlined compared to the current guidelines. Releases are based primarily upon reservoir contents in the Upper Basin. The alternative responds to hydrologic shortages in the Upper Basin by reducing releases from Lake Powell as Upper Basin use is impacted.

Many of the rules currently governing Colorado River system operations expire in 2026, including the 2007 Interim Shortage Guidelines and the 2019 Drought Contingency Plans. Last year, Reclamation initiated an environmental review process to develop new rules for post-2026 operations. Water managers across the Colorado River Basin – including federal, state, and tribal managers – have been negotiating a consensus-based alternative that could be proposed as part of that process.

Alternatives proposed to Reclamation, including the Lower Basin alternative, will be reviewed as part of the multi-year environmental review process led by Reclamation.

Meanwhile, the Lower Basin states acknowledge that the best path forward for all users of the Colorado River is one that the seven states can unanimously support. The Lower Basin states remain committed to working with the Upper Basin states, Mexico, water users, Tribes, stakeholders, and NGOs to develop a Basin-wide consensus-based alternative for further evaluation.

Download a copy of the Lower Basin Alternative here.

Quotes regarding the Lower Basin Alternative

“Protecting the future of the Colorado River must be a collective effort. The approach that was sent to the federal government today is a tremendous step forward, but there’s more to do. We need everyone across the Colorado River Basin working together to find the solutions necessary to protect the future of the Colorado River.” Brenda Burman, General Manager, Central Arizona Project

“The alternative proposed today goes further and thinks bigger than anything previously done to protect the Colorado River. We have developed a framework that could bring lasting sustainability to the Colorado River. But it will take participation from each and every one of us. Every water user across the Basin must commit to using less, while as a Basin we look for opportunities to augment supplies. If we all step up, we can implement a holistic plan that is inclusive of cities, farms, tribes and the environment, and leaves no one without water, ensuring we all thrive.” – Adel Hagekhalil, General Manager, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“Over the last two decades, we have seen that the Colorado River is producing less water due to unprecedented warmer and drier conditions and a historic drought. Going forward, the Colorado River needs to be managed holistically as proposed by the Lower Basin States and not by one crisis after another. This common-sense alternative will provide greater predictability and long-term stability for all water users in the Colorado River Basin. The wise management of the Colorado River is important to our member municipalities in the Phoenix metropolitan area, which collectively provide water to over 3.7 million residents – more than half of Arizona’s population – and to the businesses and industries that support the regional and national economy.” Warren Tenney, Executive Director, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association

“Palo Verde Irrigation District endorses the Lower Basin Alternative for future operation of the Colorado River. The unified Lower Basin adaptive management approach will stabilize river flows for generations and secure reliable water for agriculture. It will also benefit Mexico, the Upper Basin States, and the population of 40 million people throughout the Basin. Much work remains ahead for Reclamation, the Upper Basin, Mexico, and the Lower Basin to collaborate toward implementing this practical, realistic alternative.”Bart Fisher, President, Palo Verde Irrigation District Board of Trustees

“As one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, having greater predictability on the water supply from the Colorado River is critical in planning for future growth, which the Lower Basin States alternative proposal provides. The alternative proposal also provides the collaborative, balanced and sustainable approach that’s needed to successfully manage the river.” Barbara Chappell, Water Services Director, City of Goodyear, Arizona

“CVWD supports the need to update the Colorado River operations rules in addressing the current and future impacts of changing hydrology. We believe the framework outlined in the Lower Basin Alternative provides a rational path forward for the system’s long-term health and stability. Shared responsibility among all seven states ensures reliability for all 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of farms that depend on the River. CVWD is committed to doing our part.”Jim Barrett, General Manager, Coachella Valley Water District

“Phoenix is dedicated to delivering safe and reliable water to its 1.7 million customers. With this objective in mind, city leaders welcome the collaboration among the Lower Basin states to develop a strategy for Colorado River operations that addresses the challenges of overallocation and climate change. This pivotal moment calls for an unprecedented level of unity, creativity, and commitment from all stakeholders across every sector as we strive to ensure the long-term viability of the river. Phoenix shares the goal of all parties: adapt, innovate, and work collectively to secure the future of the Colorado River for our communities and future generations.” Cynthia S. Campbell, Water Resources Management Advisor, City of Phoenix

“The Imperial Irrigation District appreciates the collaborative efforts within the Lower Division States to craft an alternative for Reclamation to model as it moves forward with developing post-2026 operating guidelines. Through hard work, and a collective willingness to listen and consider each agency’s perspective, we have made significant strides forward since last year. IID is committed to continuing the conversations necessary to allow for consideration of a compromise proposal that balances water supply certainty for our community during a record-breaking drought, while still protecting the district’s longstanding legal positions and senior water rights.” – Jamie Asbury, General Manager, Imperial Irrigation District

“Our Yuma agricultural community has existed for generations along the Colorado River, and we support analysis of the Lower Basin Alternative by the Bureau of Reclamation.  We are pleased to see Lower Basin negotiators take the River’s challenges seriously and prepare an Alternative that recognizes the need to make reductions across the Colorado River Basin in a predictable and realistic manner.” – Robert Woodhouse, Board President of Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation & Drainage District

Since time immemorial, the Quechan people have relied on the Colorado River for our physical and spiritual sustenance, and the Tribe is deeply committed to ensuring that this living river remains healthy and capable of providing for the people and ecosystems that rely on it,” said Quechan Tribal Council President Jordan Joaquin. “It is why we have always fought for and will continue to defend our water. Particularly in the face of climate change and the hydrologic challenges it creates, it is essential that the post-2026 management framework for the River provides for human and ecosystem needs, protects tribal water rights, and reflects a viable strategy for preserving the River for us all. The alternative the Lower Basin States of Arizona, California, and Nevada submitted today to the Bureau of Reclamation marks an important step toward this goal, and I commend the Lower Basin States for their hard and collaborative work in reaching this point. I particularly appreciate their thoughtful plan for addressing the structural deficit and the proposal to move away from a reliance on forecasts to making management decisions based on total system contents. We look forward to our continued engagement with Reclamation, our sister tribes, the Basin states, and other key stakeholders as this process continues to ensure that we reach a sustainable outcome.”

[Download Lower Basin post-2026 alternative letter]

[Download a copy of this press release]

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Arizona, California and Nevada Commit to Record-Setting Conservation to Protect the Colorado River

October 19, 2023

Contact: Jessica Neuwerth – 818-254-3200

Record-setting volumes of Colorado River water are being saved in Lake Mead

The Bureau of Reclamation is moving the process forward to develop new operating guidelines for the Colorado River that will be in effect after 2026. Simultaneously, states, tribes and water users across the Colorado River Basin continue to collaborate on a long-term sustainable plan for the stability of the river.

To that end, the Lower Colorado River Basin states – water users in Arizona, California and Nevada – are contributing record volumes of water to Lake Mead. By the end of 2023, cumulatively, the Lower Basin will have voluntarily conserved more than 1 million acre-feet – water that is being held back in Lake Mead for the benefit of the entire system over and above shortage reductions agreed to in 2007 and those of the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan.

In 2023, consumptive use in the Lower Basin States is expected to be around 5.8 million acre-feet, the lowest consumptive use since 1984.


Arizona users are conserving nearly 345,000 acre-feet of water in 2023 through the Central Arizona Water Conservation District/Arizona Department of Water Resources ICS Preservation program as well as federally funded CAP subcontractor, tribal contractor and on-river conservation agreements. This is in addition to the 592,000 acre-foot Tier 2a shortage reduction taken by Arizona.

“Arizona is conserving more water than ever to stabilize the Colorado River Basin and protect our collective water future,” said Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

“The commitment of our state’s tribes, cities, industries and agricultural districts to Colorado River conservation efforts is substantial, and builds upon Arizona’s long history of water conservation in support of a robust economy. I’m confident we will continue this tradition well into the future as we all adapt to a changing Colorado River.”


Colorado River water deliveries to California in 2023 are on track to be the lowest since 1949 – 700,000 acre-feet lower than the state’s 4.4 million acre-foot apportionment. In urban Southern California, Colorado River use this year is projected to be the third lowest in 60 years, thanks in part to recent broad efforts to reduce outdoor water use on grass. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation prohibiting the use of potable water to irrigate grass that serves no functional purpose at businesses and other institutions.

“Twenty years ago this year, California permanently reduced its Colorado River water use by 800,000 acre-feet overnight — enough to serve 2.4 million households every year. This year, in addition to that unparalleled and ongoing effort, we’ve cut our use even further thanks to investments in conservation and partnerships forged between our agricultural, urban, and tribal water users,” said JB Hamby, California’s Colorado River Commissioner and Chairman of the Colorado River Board of California. “California is committed to leading with our water users, Basin States, and Basin Tribes to ensure sustainability on the Colorado River now and into the future.”


Nevada implemented a series of new water efficiency measures to further enhance the community’s progressive and comprehensive conservation program, which has reduced Nevada’s consumption of Colorado River by 41 percent since 2002. The new water efficiency measures include pool size limits, state laws requiring decorative grass replacement, prohibitions on new evaporative cooling, and innovative tools to align economic development opportunities with water efficiency.

“With a population of 2.3 million residents, Southern Nevada will use less than 200,000 acre-feet this year – our lowest annual water use since 1993 when our population was about 900,000 people,” said John Entsminger, SNWA General Manager. “As a river community, we can all maintain diverse, robust economies while using less water, and the reductions in municipal and agricultural water use across the Lower Basin demonstrates that.”

Arizona, California, and Nevada water users continue to conserve and leave roughly 3 million acre-feet of water in Lake Mead by the end of 2026, ensuring Colorado River system stability. Collectively, ongoing commitments may exceed the volumes in the Lower Basin consensus proposal offered to the federal government earlier this year as part of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement process to revise the 2007 Interim Guidelines that operate the Colorado River system.

These contributions provide much-needed stability through 2026 while new operating guidelines are being developed for the Colorado River system.

[Download a copy of this press release]


California Backs Consensus Plan to Bolster the Colorado River

May 22, 2023

Lisa Lien-Mager — 916-407-6279,
Jessica Neuwerth — 818-254-3200,

GLENDALE, CA — Colorado River Board of California Chairman JB Hamby issued the following statement regarding the Lower Basin Plan submitted by the representatives of California, Arizona and Nevada to the Bureau of Reclamation that will conserve three million acre-feet of Colorado River water through 2026.

“California worked hard with our Basin States partners to achieve consensus among all seven states to protect the Colorado River system for the duration of the current guidelines,” said Hamby, who also serves as California’s Colorado River Commissioner.

A letter from all seven Colorado River Basin states requested that Reclamation analyze the Lower Basin Plan as an action alternative under the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS), provide sufficient time to fully analyze the plan consistent with applicable law, and allow for an appropriate public comment period. The Draft SEIS evaluates potential near-term modifications to the 2007 Interim Shortage Guidelines that govern the operation of the Colorado River’s major dams and reservoirs through 2026.

Hamby added, “California and our partners in Arizona and Nevada have developed a plan that results in better protection for the Colorado River system than other action alternatives identified in the current Draft SEIS released last month by Reclamation. The Lower Basin Plan will generate unprecedented volumes of conservation that will build elevation in Lake Mead, make strategic use of the improved hydrology, and build upon partnerships within and among states, urban water agencies, agricultural irrigation districts, and Basin Tribes who rely upon and share the Colorado River.”

In recent months, California’s Colorado River contractors and entitlement holders have closely collaborated with the Bureau of Reclamation to develop agreements that will conserve up to 1.6 million acre-feet of water through 2026 for the benefit of the Colorado River System as part of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program, funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, and through an existing Intentionally Created Surplus extraordinary conservation water storage program. Each of California’s Colorado River contractors and entitlement holders, including The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Imperial Irrigation District, Palo Verde Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District, Bard Water District, and the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe, will conserve water to remain in the Colorado River system as part of the plan.

“California’s water users will work quickly to implement conservation that will protect the system in the near term. At the same time, California will work to address the systemic challenges facing the Colorado River and will begin collaborating with the Basin States, Basin Tribes, and the Bureau of Reclamation to develop sustainable guidelines for the long-term management of the river,” said Hamby.

# # #

For the past 85 years the Colorado River Board of California’s mission has been to protect the interests and rights of the State of California, its agencies and citizens, in the water and power resources of the Colorado River System.

The Colorado River Board represents the State of California and its Members in discussions and negotiations with the Colorado River Basin States, federal, state and local governmental agencies and Mexico regarding the management of the Colorado River.

California Responds to Reclamation’s Draft SEIS

April 11, 2023

Lisa Lien-Mager — 916-407-6279,
Jessica Neuwerth — 818-254-3200,

BOULDER CITY, NV — Colorado River Board of California Chairman JB Hamby issued the following statement on the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) released today by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The draft SEIS evaluates potential modifications to the 2007 Interim Shortage Guidelines that govern operation of the Colorado River’s major dams and reservoirs.

“California remains committed to developing a seven-state consensus that will protect the Colorado River system for the duration of the current guidelines,” said Hamby, who also serves as California’s Colorado River Commissioner. He added that, “California looks forward to closely coordinating and collaborating with our partners in the other Basin States, Basin Tribes, and Reclamation to review the draft SEIS in full.”

In January, California submitted a modeling proposal as part of the SEIS process that built on voluntary agreements and past collaborative efforts to address reduced inflows and declining reservoir elevations and achieve necessary water use reductions through 2026 to protect critical infrastructure and minimize implementation delays.

Since the January submission, California’s Colorado River water contractors and entitlement holders have closely collaborated with the Bureau of Reclamation to initiate efforts to develop agreements and conserve up to 400,000 acre-feet of water per year through 2026 for the benefit of the Colorado River System as part of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program, funded through the Inflation Reduction Act.

On April 6, Arizona and Nevada joined California in a joint response letter to Reclamation providing input on the voluntary Program’s longer-term durable system efficiency improvements project funding component by recommending measures including turf removal, local supply and augmentation projects, agricultural efficiency improvements, conveyance modernization and automation, as well as storage projects to achieve verifiable reductions in the use of or demand for water supplies.

“California is committed to working with the Colorado River Basin States, Basin Tribes, and the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure that funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and recent improvements to the basin’s hydrology are used strategically to develop consensus for near-term stable operation of the Colorado River system, and to pivot to developing sustainable guidelines for the long-term management of the river,” said Hamby.

May 30 is the deadline for comments on the draft SEIS.

# # #

For the past 85 years the Colorado River Board of California’s mission has been to protect the interests and rights of the State of California, its agencies and citizens, in the water and power resources of the Colorado River System.

The Colorado River Board represents the State of California and its Members in discussions and negotiations with the Colorado River Basin States, federal, state and local governmental agencies and Mexico regarding the management of the Colorado River.

California Water Agencies Submit Colorado River Modeling Framework to Bureau of Reclamation

January 31, 2023

Proposal Outlines Constructive Approach to Achieve Necessary Water Use Reductions through 2026 to Protect Critical Infrastructure, Prioritize Public Health and Safety

California water agencies that rely on the Colorado River today proposed a modeling framework for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate as it considers actions to help stabilize reservoir elevations and protect critical infrastructure to ensure the Colorado River system can continue to support 40 million people, nearly 6 million acres of agriculture, and Tribes across seven states and portions of Mexico.

The modeling framework outlines a constructive approach to achieve additional water use reductions while protecting infrastructure, prioritizing public health and safety, and upholding the existing body of laws, compacts, decrees, and agreements that govern Colorado River operations (known collectively as the Law of the River). The approach builds on the California agencies’ commitments announced last fall to voluntarily conserve an additional 400,000 acre-feet of water each year through 2026 to protect storage in Lake Mead and help stabilize the Colorado River reservoir system.

California’s proposed framework seeks to protect Lake Mead elevation of 1,000 feet and Lake Powell elevation of 3,500 feet by modifying some parameters governing reservoir operations, maximizing the impact of existing plans and voluntary conservation actions, and increasing cutbacks if Lake Mead elevations decline. It also protects baseline water needs of communities across the West by prioritizing water supplies for human health and safety. The proposal was carefully developed to enable workable phased water use reductions and ensures protection of adequate water volumes in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

“The alternative provides a realistic and implementable framework to address reduced inflows and declining reservoir elevations by building on voluntary agreements and past collaborative efforts in order to minimize implementation delays. California’s alternative protects critical elevations and uses adaptive management to protect critical reservoir elevations through the interim period,” JB Hamby, chair of Colorado River Board of California and California’s Colorado River Commissioner, wrote in a transmittal letter to Reclamation.

The approach differs from a modeling proposal submitted to Reclamation on January 30 by the six other basin states. The six-state proposal would direct the majority of water use reductions needed in the Lower Basin to California water users through a new apportionment method based on “system and evaporative losses.” The proposal directly conflicts with the existing Law of the River and the current water rights system and mandates cutback without providing tools to manage reductions.

For the past several months, California water users have sought a timely, practical and implementable solution with other Lower Basin users that can be implemented over the next three years to protect critical elevations in Lake Mead while longer-term changes are negotiated to update 2007 Interim Guidelines that will expire at the end of 2026. Suggestions to fundamentally change the Law of River are appropriately addressed through this shared process to update the guidelines.

California’s water agencies remain committed to working with all Colorado River basin states to take urgent, fair, and achievable action now to avoid unacceptable risks to communities, farms and economies in California and the rest of the basin.

For decades, California has been a leader in managing its Colorado River water resources and collaborating in basin-wide efforts to more effectively operate and manage the reservoir system and to incentivize water conservation as demands have increased in the face of shrinking supplies due to climate change.

In 2003, California permanently reduced its use of Colorado River water from about 5.2 million acre-feet annually to its basic apportionment of 4.4 million acre-feet, a permanent annual reduction in water use of about 800,000 acre-feet. The reduction in use resulted from implementing a combination of agricultural and urban conservation activities. Since 2003, water users in California have taken significant actions to conserve Colorado River water, adding over 1.5 million acre-feet and 20 feet of elevation of conserved water to Lake Mead since 2007. California water users committed to further conservation to bolster storage in Lake Mead through the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan. California has invested billions of dollars in urban and agricultural conservation across Southern California, through programs that reach virtually every Colorado River water user in the state.

“Twenty years ago, California adopted the largest water conservation-and-transfer agreement in U.S. history that not only supports the bulk of our nation’s food system but also sustains the environment. This multi-billion-dollar conservation-focused framework – the Quantification Settlement Agreement – is the blueprint for other states to follow. California has done its part and is willing to do more, but it’s time for the other states to step up and create their own conservation programs that sustain the quality of life in their communities,” said Jim Madaffer, vice chair of the Colorado River Board of California, representing the San Diego County Water Authority.

“For over 20 years, Metropolitan has met the challenge of reducing our use of Colorado River water, and we are committed to doing more now. But we must do it in a way that does not harm half of the people who rely on the river – the 19 million people of Southern California. We must do it in a way that does not devastate our $1.6 trillion economy, an economic engine for the entire United States. We must do it in a way that can be quickly implemented, adding water to lakes Mead and Powell without getting mired in lengthy legal battles. We must do it in a way that maintains and strengthens partnerships on the river, allowing us to work together to build longer term solutions. The proposal presented today by California does all of this by equitably sharing the risk among Basin states without adversely affecting any one agency or state. The plan presented yesterday, which shut out California, does not. California knows how to permanently reduce use of the river – we have done it over the past 20 years, through billions of dollars in investments and hard-earned partnerships. We can help the entire Southwest do it again as we move forward,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“The Colorado River – Imperial Valley’s only source of water – supports far more than our rural disadvantaged community as it provides for a robust agricultural industry that feeds millions of people and provides food security for this nation. California, and particularly the Imperial Irrigation District, is working to be part of the solution, however we also believe in upholding the Law of the River and not shouldering the burden of supply limitations for states and agencies that have outgrown their water rights. California has spent the past two decades successfully working together to resolve intra-state supply and demand imbalances to sustain the Colorado River. Since the signing of the Quantification Settlement Agreement, the largest ag-to-urban water conservation and transfer agreement in U.S. history, IID’s water management programs have generated over 7.2 million acre-feet in support of the Colorado River system. Today, IID and its California partners have proposed a balanced and implementable plan that begins to address the monumental challenges we face with the ongoing Colorado River drought,” said Henry Martinez, general manager, Imperial Irrigation District.

“Historically, CVWD and our agricultural community have invested heavily in its irrigation delivery system to minimize water loss, including canal lining projects, a closed pipe irrigation distribution system and installing drip irrigation. We have prioritized the efficient use of Colorado River water over the long term. We also took action last year with other California agencies to voluntarily identify a collection of Colorado River water conservation and reduction actions to save 400,000 acre-feet annually through 2026. We support our California partners and are committed to reaching a 7-basin state consensus on a framework for additional water use reductions through 2026,” said Jim Barrett, general manager, Coachella Valley Water District.

“One-hundred and forty-six years ago, the original developers of our Palo Verde Valley filed and were granted the very first water rights to Colorado River water. Secured by those rights, farmers and farm workers have invested multiple generations of farm loans and hard work to produce food and fiber for consumers. Surrounding our agriculture are small rural cities that depend exclusively upon Colorado River water for their domestic supply. Farmers and landowners in Palo Verde Irrigation District want to be part of a solution to the current mismatch of supply and demand on the River in a manner that honors existing Public Law, and Administrative Law,” said Bart Fisher, president, Palo Verde Irrigation District Board of Trustees.

“The Colorado River has been the lifeblood of the Quechan people since time immemorial, and we have a deep and abiding responsibility to be good stewards of the River – for the Tribe and its members, for the species and ecosystems that it sustains, and for the benefit of our fellow tribes and non-Indian neighbors throughout the Basin. It is why we have always fought for and will continue to defend our water. The modeling proposal submitted by the State of California to the Bureau of Reclamation for inclusion as part of its development of the SEIS reflects a meaningful effort to address the hydrologic challenges facing the Basin while respecting the senior water rights of the Tribe and others and ensuring that the Colorado can continue to exist as a living river,” said Quechan Tribal Council President Jordan Joaquin.

Colorado River Board Elects New Officers

January 11, 2022

At its January 11th meeting, the Colorado River Board of California elected JB Hamby, representing Imperial Irrigation District, to serve as Board Chairman and Jim Madaffer, representing San Diego County Water Authority, to serve as Board Vice Chairman. As Chairman, Hamby serves as California’s Colorado River Commissioner.

“This is a historic time of reckoning on the Colorado River where growing demand over the decades exceeds a shrinking supply due to chronic drought and aridification,” Hamby said. “Protecting California’s stake on the Colorado River is vital to our future in Southern California. I look forward to working closely with the board’s member agencies — both agricultural and urban — to develop solutions that respect the Law of the River for the benefit of all Californians.”

Board members also congratulated outgoing Chairman Peter Nelson and Vice Chairman David Pettijohn on their tenure and service to the Board and the State of California.

California Water Agencies Pledge to Conserve Additional Water to Stabilize the Colorado River Basin

October 5, 2022

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau
Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton

Dear Deputy Secretary Beaudreau, Assistant Secretary Trujillo, and Commissioner Touton:

Thank you for your leadership and collaboration as we work together to stabilize the Colorado River Basin amidst an unprecedented, climate change-driven drought stretching over two decades. Given dire drought conditions across the region and dangerously low reservoir levels, we firmly believe that all water users within the Basin must take immediate voluntary actions to stabilize water supplies in the Basin’s major reservoirs.

California water agencies that utilize Colorado River water supplies propose to conserve up to an additional 400,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead each year, beginning in 2023 and running through 2026. This water, which would otherwise be used by California’s communities and farms, will meaningfully contribute to stabilizing the Colorado River reservoir system. … read more

California Statements Regarding Colorado River System Sustainability

September 22, 2022


Media Contact: Lisa Lien-Mager,, 916-407-6279

SANTA FE, NM – Peter Nelson, chair of the Colorado River Board of California, issued the following statement today regarding ongoing discussions on Colorado River use.

“California recognizes the need to act urgently. We must continue to reduce demands to avoid an untenable situation on the Colorado River system. California water agencies are working in real time to build on previous water-saving actions and conserve significant volumes of water each year beginning in 2023. We are eager to partner with the Bureau of Reclamation to pursue funding opportunities to enable reductions in water use while also accelerating projects to address impacts at the Salton Sea. California calls on our basin partners to join us in finding ways to preserve the health of the Colorado River and this important water supply.” … read more

Chairman Nelson Issues Statement on Protection Volumes Effort

August 16, 2022


The Colorado River Basin is in the 23rd year of a historic drought. Both Lake Powell and Lake Mead – the two largest reservoirs in the United States – are at historically low levels with a combined storage of 27 percent of capacity. The sobering news that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation delivered today during its release of the August 24 Month Study Report and the projections for 2023 reservoir operations comes as no surprise, and while California is disappointed that a consensus-based agreement among the Colorado River Basin States to conserve additional water supplies in 2023 is not ready to be announced today, California remains ready and willing to finalize an agreement with our partners across the Basin to protect the reservoir system we all rely upon.

California has demonstrated its commitment to water conservation time and again over the decades, but we also recognize that more must be done now as the System reaches critically low water supply levels. Over the past few years, despite its senior priority water rights, water users in California have been taking additional actions to conserve water and reduce the risks to the Basin’s reservoirs.

Since the establishment of the 2007 Interim Shortage Guidelines, California has added over 1.5 million acre-feet (MAF) and 20 feet of elevation of conserved water to Lake Mead, without which a formal shortage could have been declared as early as 2015. This was achieved through billions of dollars of investments in urban and agricultural conservation across Southern California, through programs that reach virtually every Colorado River water user in the state. California also agreed to participate in the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan, further bolstering storage in Lake Mead. These actions are on top of the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement, a ground-breaking program through which California permanently reduced its lawful water use by nearly 20%, from 5.2 MAF to 4.4 MAF, and demonstrated the feasibility of large-scale water use reductions in the Colorado River Basin.

Although the Basin States have not yet agreed on a consensus-based solution to address declining reservoir elevations, California will continue implementing additional conservation programs in 2023 that result in meaningful water contributions to the system. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California put an emergency water conservation declaration in place this past June, directing six million residents to limit outdoor watering to one day per week or stay within a limit of 55 gallons per person per day. To date, Metropolitan and its member agencies lead the nation in investments in water recycling, stormwater capture, and brackish groundwater and seawater desalination. Through its fallowing program with Metropolitan and in partnership with entities across the Lower Basin, the Palo Verde Irrigation District began adding conserved water to Lake Mead in 2021 and will continue to do so through 2024. In addition to existing water efficiency and water recycling programs, the Coachella Valley Water District approved its first-ever agricultural water use reduction program in 2022 to conserve water this year and next. The Imperial Irrigation District currently conserves and transfers on average 500,000 acre-feet per year and has saved more than 7 MAF of water since 2003 as its conservation programs continue to ramp up. Through its rollout of a revised Equitable Distribution Plan, IID has also significantly reduced its demand in 2022.

California appreciates the engagement and initial commitments of our State and Federal partners to address the long-term sustainability of the Salton Sea given its linkage to the Colorado River System. We look forward to continuing these discussions and believe that developing solutions for Salton Sea management is a necessary step that will protect the health of disadvantaged communities and ecosystems and enable new opportunities for conservation in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys, contributing to Basin-wide sustainability. California also appreciates the significant contributions of our Congressional delegation and State officials in securing vital federal authorizations and fiscal resources that will enable both Colorado River Basin drought relief activities and Salton Sea management.

California believes that in the remaining months of 2022, all parties across the Basin must remain engaged with the goal of reaching agreement on substantial water use reductions. Given the monumental challenges before us, inactivity is not an option. California is committed to the process and ready to implement meaningful water use reductions alongside our partners on the river to prevent the reservoirs from falling to critical levels through 2026.

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Download the Statement on Protection Volumes Effort (PDF)