LAS VEGAS (AP) — To help stave off another round of mandatory cutbacks, water leaders for Arizona, Nevada and California are preparing to sign an agreement that would voluntarily reduce Colorado River water to the lower basin states by 500,000 acre-feet — enough to supply about 750,000 households for a year — for both 2022 and 2023.

The agreement, known as the “500+ Plan”, would require millions of dollars from each state over two years — $60 million from Arizona, $20 million from Nevada and $20 million from California with federal matching dollars — to fund payments for water use reduction and efficiency projects that result in supply savings throughout the lower basin.

In the midst of the urgency to reach new management rules for the river after 2026, the signing will take place at Wednesday’s annual meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association in Las Vegas. 2007 interim guidelines expire.

Lake Mead is the United States’ largest reservoir. This year saw record-breaking lows, which led to a reduction in 2022 deliveries. junior water rights holders in Arizona,Nevada and Mexico

A lower level would result in even greater cuts at some thresholds. There are currently no plans for managing the supply if Lake Mead drops below 1,025 feet (312.42 metres) above sealevel. The 500+ Plan has not been adopted. Modeling indicates that this may happen by 2024.

Every foot of elevation lost in Mead reduces Hoover Dam’s hydropower generation by about 6 megawatts — it’s currently running around 75% capacity. If levels ever fall below 950 feet (289.56 meters), the dam’s turbines, which generate power for 1.3 million people in three states, would stop running altogether.

California receives over half of the hydropower from California so the deal is urgent. Adel Hagekhalil (general manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California) says that.

“As levels drop at Lake Mead, it’s basically strangling everything,” Hagekhalil said.

Kathryn Sorensen is the research director for Arizona State University’s Kyl Center for Water Policy.

“It’s all based on modeling that may or may not be correct,” Sorensen said. “Whether even the 500+ plan is enough, I just don’t think people know.”

Next year marks 100 years since the Colorado River Compact was signed, apportioning the river’s water among seven states, and later Mexico, during an unseasonably wet era.

In the years since then, federally subsidized water projects allowed cities and farms to balloon, and 40 million people now rely at least in part on the Colorado River’s water. Climate change, scientists warn, is increasing. the West warmer and more aridUsers will need to use less water in order for the system’s resources to keep up with their needs.


Follow Brittany Peterson via Twitter @brittanykamalei


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