Lower Basin States Announce Plan to Conserve the Colorado River

EDGEFIELD, SC — In late May, the governors of Arizona, California and Nevada made an important announcement about conserving the Colorado River. This plan, developed by the states of the lower Colorado River Basin, aims to safeguard the river and mitigate the effects of the ongoing drought.

By reducing water use and implementing sustainable practices, the plan aims to conserve 3 million acre-feet of water over the next three years. In exchange for their commitment, cities, irrigation districts, and Native American tribes in these states will receive federal funds. This agreement marks a positive step forward to address the overuse and challenges facing the lower basin states.

The Colorado River is a vital resource in the western United States, serving seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. These states, along with numerous Native American tribes and communities, depend on the river for their water supply, hydroelectric power, recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and various other benefits. However, the history of the Colorado River has been marred by problems stemming from over-allocation and the impacts of climate change.

The Colorado River Compact, established in 1922, divided the use of the river among various interested parties. Unfortunately, this split exceeded the river’s typical flow, causing excessive allocation and overuse. In subsequent agreements, overuse continued, adding to the pressure on the river’s resources. Compounding the problem is the growing impact of climate change, which is exacerbating the basin’s heat and dryness, further reducing water supplies.

While there has been a decline in water supply from the upstream upper basin states over the past two decades, the lower basin states persist in consuming water at an unsustainable rate. On average, they use 1.2 million acre-feet more water than they receive from the Upper Basin. This imbalance threatens the long-term sustainability of the Colorado River and requires collaborative efforts to rectify the situation.

A crucial aspect that is often overlooked in the discussion is the correlation between forest health and the hydrology of the Colorado River. The catastrophic impact the wildfires are having on both is immense, said Travis Smith, Western Waters Specialist for the NWTF.

The upper basin states play an important role in maintaining the river’s water supply, so it is essential to understand the connection between water resources and forest health in these regions. Devastating forest fires in Colorado and other states have caused adverse effects on snowpack, hydrologic conditions, and runoff. These events affect water quality during active burning and have lasting consequences for months, or even years, after containment.

To promote healthier forests and improve water quality and quantity, the NWTF has implemented large-scale landscapes wildfire mitigation efforts through shared stewardship agreements such as the 20-year National Master Stewardship Agreement with the USDA Forest Service and the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative to address this pressing issue.

“NWTF recognizes the strong connection of our landscape-scale conservation work and downstream water supplies for people, places and wild turkeys,” Smith said.

Understanding the relationship between forest health and water resources is essential to preserving the long-term viability of the Colorado River. By implementing shared stewardship initiatives, stakeholders are taking vital steps to secure the future of this critical water source in the West.

Learn Learn more about NWTF’s conservation initiatives and find out how you can get involved.

About the National Wild Turkey Federation

Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation has invested more than half a billion dollars in wildlife conservation and has conserved or improved more than 22 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. The organization continues to advance wildlife conservation, forest resiliency, and robust recreational opportunities across the US by working beyond borders at the landscape scale.

2023 is the 50th of the NWTF he anniversary and an opportunity to push the organization’s mission into the future while honoring its rich history. for his 50 he anniversary, the NWTF has set six ambitious goals: positively impact 1 million acres of wildlife habitat; raise $500,000 for wild turkey research; increase membership to 250,000 members; dedicate $1 million to education and outreach programs; raise $5 million to invest in technology and the people of NWTF; and raise $5 million to build a $50 million endowment for the future. Learn how you can help us achieve these lofty goals.