Lake Mead (Destination 360)
By Associated Press

WYOMING – A plan to address a shrinking supply of water on a river that serves 40 million people in the US West is headed to President Donald Trump.

The US House and Senate approved the Colorado River drought contingency plan on Monday.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming spent years negotiating the drought plan. They aim to keep two key reservoirs from falling so low they cannot deliver water or produce hydropower.

Mexico has promised to store water in Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border if the US legislation is approved by April 22.

State water managers and federal officials have cited a prolonged drought, climate change and increasing demand for the river’s flows as reasons to cut back on water usage. The agreement runs through 2026.

In the lower basin, Arizona and Nevada would keep water in Lake Mead when it falls to certain levels. The cuts eventually would loop in California if Lake Mead’s level drops far enough.

The measure approved Monday reflects language proposed by the states but also includes a section that says the implementation of the drought plan won’t be exempt from federal environmental laws.

The Imperial Irrigation District in California, which holds the largest entitlement to Colorado River water, and environmental groups had raised concern about draft language they took to mean federal laws like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act would be disregarded.

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney supported passage of the Colorado River drought contingency plan.

“This bill will execute a state-based solution that protects the supply of water for 40 million people and over 5 million acres of irrigated land. I applaud Pat Tyrell and the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office for their hard work to accomplish this interstate agreement that protects one of the West’s most critical water resources,” Cheney said.

Sen. Mike Enzi added,“Conserving water in the Colorado River is important for Wyoming and for many states in the West. I am glad the states worked together in developing this plan to help protect those who rely on the Colorado River Basin and ensure there is sufficient water for years to come.”

“From irrigation and ranching, power production and recreation, water is central to the way of life in Wyoming and the West,” Sen. John Barrasso commented. “In the face of nearly two decades of drought, new management practices are needed to sustain these uses for future generations. The drought contingency plan is the process of great collaboration and consensus throughout the Colorado River Basin. It will help protect water users and prevent unnecessary government intervention.”

The Colorado River Basin drains more than 246,000 square miles across seven states and Mexico. More than 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming depend on the river for drinking water, farming irrigation, and hydropower. Since 2000, the Colorado River has experienced its most severe drought in 100 years of record keeping and what may be the one of the driest periods in the last 1,200 years according to paleo-records.

The DCP was negotiated between the seven Colorado River Basin States and Indian tribes to respond to this prolonged drought. It is designed to protect Lakes Mead and Powell from reaching certain critical water elevations that would trigger severe water supply reductions and hydropower impacts, including the risk of reaching crises levels where operational control of the Colorado River System is lost.

Read the full DCP final draft.