A bipartisan group of lawmakers worked quickly yesterday to provide Congressional approval for a drought plan to address the shrinking supply of water from the Colorado River, which provides 40 million people in the West with drinking water, power and irrigation for crops. The Associated Press reported that the legislation mandates that the states’ implementation of the drought contingency plan will comply with all federal environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, which was a concern of several of the key stakeholders.
- The states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming have spent years working through the details of the plan to ensure that water levels in two key reservoirs remain high enough to provide water to users and produce hydropower.
- One of those reservoirs is Lake Mead, which is the largest manmade reservoir in North America, and water levels there came dangerously close last summer to requiring radical water cuts in usage.
- The solution reached is also international — Mexico agreed to store water in Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border if Congress approved the legislation by next week.
- In a rare showing of bipartisanship, Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva led the effort to move identical bills quickly through both houses of Congress, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers from Colorado River basin states co-sponsored it.
The agreement runs through 2026. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law, and then the states will meet again to finalize the deal.
Why This Matters: Bipartisan agreements like this one are all too rare today. Setting the terms in advance for what will happen in the event of a catastrophic drought in this region is the best way to ensure that everyone gets their fair share of precious Colorado River water. It is also great news that Mexico is part of the solution, given all the other problems on the U.S. border with them. Water in the future will be even more precious in many parts of the world due to climate change. It is reassuring to know that when the chips are down, people can come together to find solutions to even the most pressing resource problems like this one. It is not this way everywhere. In February, India threatened to cut back on water flowing through its rivers to arid Pakistan, which could have started a “water war” in that region.