Authorities with Denver Water, Central Arizona Project, the Metropolitan of South California and Southern Nevada Water Authority, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have each contributed $2 million dollars to create the Colorado River Water Conservation Fund. In addition, the United States Bureau of Reclamation has given $3 million dollars to the project designed to keep the water levels in Lake Mead and LakePowell high enough to delay or avoid the declaration of a water shortage.
Las Vegas is most concerned about the loss of water from these two lakes as they get 90 percent of the town’s water from LakeMeade, but they are not alone. Phoenix gets 47 percent of their water from the Colorado River, and 50 percent of Denver’s water comes from the lakes. In addition, the lakes’ water produces electricity for many communities.
The water in these lakes is getting in short demand due to higher water usage further up on the Colorado River. In addition, the area is experiencing one of the worst droughts in the last 1,200 years.
This fund will start funding projects in 2015 and continue for two years. Funding for numerous projects is available under the fund. The main one is to pay farmers to sign rotational fallowing agreements. Under these agreements, farmers agree to produce fewer crops during the dryer years and leave the water in the lakes and rivers for towns to use. Farmers can receive funding for installing more efficient irrigation systems.
Farmers are not the only ones that can receive funding under the plan. Businesses can receive funding for reclaiming water and installing water-smart landscaping. Private individuals can also receive funding for installing water-smart landscaping and receive funding for using water and energy efficient appliances in new homes.
Not everyone is happy with the creation of this fund. Farmers want more choices in how to conserve water. They would like funding for growing less water intensive crops, such as corn instead of soybeans. Farmers also would like the option to receive funding for watering less and accepting reduced yields.
The issue of water in the Colorado River Basin has long been a hotly debated topic. The 1922 Colorado River Compact legislates how much water the upper basin states including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming should deliver to the lower basin states. When the upper basin states do not deliver the water, then the lower states have the right to place a call on the water and force the upper states to conserve water drastically. It is the hope that the creation of the conservation fund will delay or stop any need for this to occur.
The money from the power generated by Lake Mead and Lake Powell funds many projects such as protecting the endangered the Kanab amber snail, the razorback sucker, the humpback chub and the southwestern willow flycatcher that are native to the Colorado River Basin. These four animals only live in the Colorado River Basin, and zoologists fear that if the water level drops too low these animal species may perish.