The US government announced a historic agreement between seven western states on Monday to protect the Colorado River, which has been shrinking due to a quarter-century drought and worsening weather conditions.
The agreement was pushed by California, Nevada, and Arizona, the three states located in the lower basin of the Colorado River in the southwestern United States. These states voluntarily committed to implementing water-saving measures that will save 3.7 billion cubic meters of water by 2026.
Part of these savings will be offset by funds from the Reduce Inflation Act, a major piece of climate legislation passed last year in Washington.
The US Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, praised this agreement that ends decades of disputes, highlighting the importance of the Colorado River for 40 million people, seven states, and 30 tribal nations that depend on it for basic services such as drinking water and electricity.
The administration of President Joe Biden threatened to impose radical restrictions if the negotiations did not advance, so this announcement demonstrates the government’s commitment to finding consensual solutions to climate change and the persistent drought.
The Colorado River stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Water levels in Lake Mead, the United States’ largest reservoir located in Nevada, reached their lowest level in 2022 since the construction of the Hoover Dam, revealing slopes not seen since the 1930s and even uncovering the corpse of an alleged murder victim with ties to the Las Vegas mob.
Last year, federal authorities urged the seven western states, along with Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico, to agree to reduce their water use to a maximum of 40% of the river’s flow. California, the most populous and agriculturally important state, had been the subject of proposals to impose most of the restrictions, but after a series of negotiations, a consensus was reached.
California Governor Gavin Newsom stressed that the state has stood up to its responsibility by committing to significant cuts in water use and stressed the importance of working together across the Western United States to address this crisis brought about by climate change.
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