$50 million investment announced to help protect and sustain the Colorado River System

Colorado River
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August 15, 2023 — Yesterday, the Department of the InteriorOpens in a new tab. revealed its plans to allocate $50 million over the next five years to enhance key water infrastructure and improve drought-related data collection across the Upper Colorado River Basin. The Bureau of Reclamation is spearheading these efforts with an initial $8.7 million investment in fiscal year 2023 to support drought mitigation strategies in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

The funding aligns with President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, representing the most substantial investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history. This agenda addresses the need for resources to bolster Western communities’ resilience against drought and climate change, including protecting the sustainability of the Colorado River System.

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Reclamation is allocating $8.3 billion over five years for projects that encompass water purification and reuse, water storage and conveyance, desalination, and dam safety. Additionally, the Inflation Reduction Act is contributing an extra $4.6 billion to mitigate the historic drought.

Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau Opens in a new tab.emphasized the Biden-Harris administration’s dedication to long-term climate solutions: “The Biden-Harris administration is committed to bringing every tool and every resource to bear as we work with states, Tribes, and communities throughout the West to find long-term solutions in the face of climate change and the sustained drought it is creating.”

Data-Driven Drought Mitigation.

The $8.7 million investment announced yesterday includes the purchase and installation of 12 new eddy covariance stations, which will measure evapotranspiration—a key metric for calculating consumptive water use. The placement of these stations throughout the basin is intended to augment the basin’s existing network of instrumentation, enhancing water accounting, weather prediction, and monitoring capabilities.

“Resources from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda are allowing us to meet a number of program needs across the Colorado River System,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim ToutonOpens in a new tab.. “Today’s funding will enhance critical data and empower us with the best-available science and technology to more accurately measure the Upper Basin’s consumptive water use.”

The initiative to install the new stations was influenced by a 2018-2020 study of evapotranspiration in the Upper Basin, conducted by Reclamation and the Upper Basin states, along with other partners. The data collected and analyzed during this study highlighted the importance and value of expanding data gathering capabilities.

Drought Contingency Planning.

The funding supports Drought Contingency Planning activitiesOpens in a new tab. in the Upper Colorado River Basin, in line with the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act (P.L. 116-14) and related agreements.

To date, the Interior Department has announced the following investments for Colorado River Basin states, which will yield hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water savings each year once these projects are complete:

  • $281 million for 21 water recycling projects expected to increase annual water capacity by 127,000 acre-feet
  • Up to $233 million in water conservation funding for the Gila River Indian Community, including $83 million for a water pipeline project and an additional $50 million from the Inflation Reduction Act through the Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program, which will also provide similar investments in 2024 and 2025
  • Over $73 million for infrastructure repairs on water delivery systems, $19.3 million in fiscal year 2022 and another $54 million in April
  • $71 million for 32 drought resiliency projects to expand access to water through groundwater storage, rainwater harvesting, aquifer recharge, and water treatment
  • $20 million in new small surface and groundwater storage investments
  • Eight new System Conservation Implementation Agreements in Arizona that will commit water entities in the Tucson and Phoenix metro areas to conserve up to 140,000-acre feet of water in Lake Mead in 2023, and up to 393,000-acre feet through 2025.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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