New drought mitigation funding opportunities have been announced as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The Department of the Interior has unveiled a new program to help ensure the long-term viability of the Colorado River System. IRA funds have been allocated to support a newly created Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program. The program seeks to increase water conservation and improve overall water efficiency. It will be managed by the Bureau of Reclamation.
“The prolonged drought afflicting the West is one of the most significant challenges facing our country. I have seen firsthand how climate change is exacerbating the drought crisis and putting pressure on the communities who live across Western landscapes,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release. “Thanks to historic funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the Interior Department is committed to using every resource available to conserve water and ensure that irrigators, Tribes and adjoining communities receive adequate assistance and support to build resilient communities and protect our water supplies.”
Projects to mitigate the impacts of drought, protect natural resources, and ensure the sustainability of the river system will be selected to receive funding. Colorado River water delivery contract or entitlement holders will have an opportunity to receive funding through three components of the new program. Two of the three components are open for proposal submissions through November 21.
Proposals will require confirmation of water conservation and system benefits that can be obtained through the projects. Eligible applicants can submit proposals for conservation projects resulting in wet water remaining in Lake Mead at a set price of $330 per acre-foot for one-year agreements, $365 per acre-foot for two-year agreements, and $400 per acre-foot for three-year agreements.
Proposals for additional water conservation and efficiency projects involving a variety of pricing options are being accepted as a second component of the program. The drought mitigation program also includes a third component which will focus on long-term system efficiency improvements. Proposals for the third component will begin being accepted in early 2023.