Sinema meets with regional water officials to talk about $4B in Colorado River drought aid

In late June, the Arizona Legislature approved a $1 billion plan to find ways of augmenting the state’s water supplies and encourage further conservation.

By Zayna Syed |The Arizona Republic

HOOVER DAM — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema introduced a new water advisory council at Hoover Dam on Monday to discuss how to spend $4 billion in water and drought aid included in the Inflation Reduction Act.

The $4 billion is meant to stave off the worst effects of drought across the Colorado River system, which is suffering from overuse and two decades of drought exacerbated by climate change.

The effects of the drought were clear Monday as Sinema and regional water officials met at Lake Mead, which sits at just over one-quarter capacity, the same as the upstream Lake Powell. Federal water officials are expected to release projections next week that could lead to new restrictions on water use among the seven states that rely on the river.

Advisory council members said Monday they hope the new funds, which will be administered over the next four years by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, will assist in both a short-term “glide path” to ease the burden of water cuts in the next four to five years, and a long-term sustainable future.

“I don’t think there’s anything bigger within our state since the (1980 Groundwater Management Act) in securing our state’s water future,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and a member of the advisory council.

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Arizona has significantly reduced the amount of water it takes from the river as lower water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell trigger cutbacks. Farmers in Pinal County lost almost all of their river allocations on Jan. 1 and have been forced to leave fields unplanted or find other water sources.

Even so, the federal government has told the seven states to reduce water consumption even more in an attempt to protect long-term supplies.

In late June, the Arizona Legislature approved a $1 billion plan to find ways of augmenting the state’s water supplies and encourage further conservation.

Megadrought:Deep cuts loom on the Colorado River as water levels plunge. Who will feel the pain most?

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