Reclamation Releases Interim Plan for Colorado River System 

Brian German Agri-Business, Water

As part of the efforts to address the ongoing drought impacts on the Colorado River System, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation has unveiled a final plan outlined in a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). It provides updated parameters for the interim operation of the Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams.

Colorado River

Crafted in collaboration with the seven Colorado Basin states, the SEIS aims to conserve at least 3 million acre-feet of water by the end of 2026, when the current guidelines expire. This collaborative effort involves various stakeholders including farmers, water managers, municipalities, and others. Furthermore, new agreements with California water entities will also help conserve up to 399,153 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead through 2026. Similar progress has been made with Mexico regarding additional conservation efforts.

“This Administration has held strong to its commitment to work with states, Tribes and communities throughout the West to find consensus solutions in the face of climate change and sustained drought,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Michael Brain said in a press release. “We will continue to prioritize these key values as we move forward in our long-term planning efforts.” 

The SEIS’s preferred alternative includes measures to reduce water releases from Lake Powell under certain conditions to conserve water and maintain system integrity. These actions are part of a broader initiative to tackle reduced water levels in the Colorado River System’s reservoirs, which are crucial for water deliveries and power production. The initiative is backed by funding allocated for water conservation projects, including those under the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The short-term SEIS process addresses immediate drought concerns in the Colorado River Basin, while post-2026 efforts aim to develop new guidelines. These efforts will determine operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, focusing on robust, adaptive strategies. This long-term process involves exploring various alternatives to ensure stability for water users throughout the basin.

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West