Today, all 14 senators from the Colorado River Basin introduced the historic Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act (S.1057).
The legislation was developed in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to ensure the wide-reaching Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) forged between the seven Colorado River Basin states and Indian tribes can be implemented without delay while fully respecting important environmental protections in the process.
The legislation is co-sponsored by all 14 senators from the Colorado River Basin: Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah.), Mike Lee (R-Utah.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
“Severe droughts will become more frequent in the West as our climate continues to change, so we have to be prepared by saving more water from the wet years for the dry ones,” said Senator Feinstein. “This is especially important in the Colorado River basin, which supplies water to seven states and 40 million people. By working together in a collaborative way, we can help ensure the Colorado River remains a sustainable water source for the communities and wildlife that depend on it.”
The Drought Contingency Plan is a landmark grassroots effort that is a state-driven solution to ensure that we continue to provide drinking water to 40 million Americans, irrigation for 5.5 million acres of farmland, and more than 4,000 megawatts of carbon-free hydropower to communities across the West,” Senator McSally said. “Congratulations to all the states for their hard work. I am honored to lead this bipartisan DCP legislation and will work to get it urgently signed into law. ”
“I'm proud to have worked with local stakeholders and Senate colleagues to keep the Drought Contingency Plan on track and ensure Congressional leaders know how important the agreement is to Arizona,” Senator Sinema said. “I’ll keep working across the aisle to pass our legislation and help secure Arizona’s water future.”
“I applaud Senator McSally and the entire Colorado River Basin delegation for introducing this bill, which is vitally important to the water security of 40 million people out west,” Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski said. “My colleagues on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee have kept me informed about the urgency and progress of this effort over the last few years, and we now look forward to moving it quickly into law so the Basin states can begin saving water and protecting Lakes Mead and Powell this year.”
“I applaud the Colorado River Basin States for coming together to address the ongoing threat of drought to our states’ economy, public safety, and the daily lives of millions,” said Senator Cortez Masto. I look forward to working together with my colleagues to pass this bipartisan legislation that protects the Colorado River, should a shortage be declared, and supports and protects our urban areas, agricultural and grazing lands, and recreational as well as tourism economies. I’ll do all I can in the Senate to collaborate with my western state colleagues to protect Lake Mead, the Colorado River, and the water resources of those who live in Nevada and across the west.”
“Conserving water in the Colorado River is important for Wyoming and for many states in the West,” Senator Enzi said. “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.”
“For the last nineteen years, my home state of Utah has been in a severe drought, with Lake Powell currently at dangerously low levels,” Senator Romney said. “The Colorado River is critical to the survival, livelihood, and recreation of Utahns, and we must do everything we can to sustain it. By implementing drought contingency plans for the Colorado River Basin, this bill is an important step toward managing Utah’s waters and the communities that depend on them.”
“I’d like to commend the many individuals from all the state involved for their hard work,” Senator Lee said. “The Colorado River is managed under a complicated set of compacts, statues, court decisions, and other agreements; given these constraints, negotiating a compromise among all the stakeholders is quite the accomplishment.”
“40 million people in the western United States depend on the health of the Colorado River to provide water for agricultural, municipal, and consumptive use,” Senator Gardner said. “The river also supports a growing recreation economy. However, in the face of long term drought, the basin states have come together to create coordinated plans that should aid efforts to prevent severe water shortages in the west and stabilize water storage levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell. I congratulate the states on the successful collaboration that has produced this plan, and I urge my colleagues to move this legislation without delay.”
“As climate change continues to disrupt our environment, it’s critical that we do everything we can to ensure equitable and fair access to water,” said Senator Heinrich. “New Mexico’s cities, farmers, and tribes all rely on water from the Colorado River Basin, and the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act will ensure that all New Mexicans can count on having they water they need to live and work even in times of drought.”
“In New Mexico, we live by the saying ‘agua es vida’ -- water is life -- because we know how vital this precious resource is to preserving our economy, our environment, and our way of life in the West, especially as climate change threatens our water supplies,” Senator Udall said. “Drought is the new normal, and this legislation is an important step in securing sustainable water supplies throughout the Southwest, and minimizing future conflicts and litigation. The Drought Contingency plan is the product of close collaboration between Colorado River Basin states, the federal government, and Indian Tribes at a time when climate change is making New Mexico and the Southwest hotter and drier, and putting a strain on our already scarce resources. For New Mexico, the plan will protect future flows from the San Juan-Chama project, which brings water from the Colorado River Basin into New Mexico. By working together – rather than against each other – we were able to devise a plan that will benefit everyone, from Indian Tribes and farmers to the growing communities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque.”
“Water is one of our most precious resources – especially for Western states like Nevada,” said Senator Rosen. “I was proud to see so many local stakeholders come to the table to negotiate a sustainable and historic conservation plan. This legislation will codify this agreement, allowing all of the Colorado River Basin states to continue to have access to water for future generations.”
“From irrigation and ranching, power production and recreation, water is central to the way of life in Wyoming and the West,” Senator Barrasso said. “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.”
“We are very pleased that Congress is moving so swiftly to implement DCP,” Stephen Roe Lewis, governor of the Gila River Indian Community, said. “It is critical for us that this legislation is approved quickly so we can start storing water in Lake Mead this year. I want to thank Senator McSally and the entire Arizona Congressional delegation for all their work and support to move this critical legislation.”
“Since time immemorial, the River has protected the Aha Makav people. Now it is our turn to protect the River,” said Dennis Patch, Chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. “CRIT strongly supports this legislation and looks forward to working with Congress to ensure it is swiftly enacted.”
The legislation is available here.
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 Drought Contingency Plan – otherwise known as 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.