Feds, Western Water Providers To Fund Colorado River Conservation Projects

Aug 1, 2014

The federal government and municipal water providers in four Western states have reached an agreement to fund Colorado River conservation projects. 

The $11 million deal was announced Thursday. Municipal water providers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado and the Bureau of Reclamation have agreed to fund projects to conserve Colorado River water.

Denver Water CEO Jim Lockhead said Denver is one of the four municipalities participating in the program.

Lockhead said half of Denver’s water supply comes from the Colorado River. 

Lake Mead is the the nation's largest reservoir.
Credit U.S. Geological Survey

"This pool of money is really designed to try and fund pilot programs that would test different [water conservation] ideas whether it is agricultural water use or industrial use or municipal use," he said. "Anything should be eligible for funding to demonstrate how we can reduce our demand when we’re in a drought."

The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people in seven states and Mexico.

A recent study from NASA and the University of California, Irvine showed the basin is drying up fast than was thought.

Scientists used satellite data gathered over a nine year period to track changes in the mass of the basin that has been experiencing severe drought since 2000.

They found the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater, that's nearly double the volume of Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir, during the nine year period. The study said about 41 million acre feet of that lost water was groundwater.  

Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at the University of California, Irvine, co-authored the study.

"The water security of the western United States is really at greater risk than we thought," Famiglietti. "The reason for that is groundwater is being used to bridge that cap between supply and demand. It has been being used that way for sometime but yet we’re not really including groundwater in our basin-wide water management plan. That’s something we need to begin addressing very soon."

The Bureau of Reclamation said all the water conserved under the new program will stay in the river to help boost declining reservoir levels.