Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014 | 5 p.m.
PHOENIX — Providers of municipal water in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado are starting a conservation program for the Colorado River system.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday began soliciting project proposals for water conservation from Colorado River entitlement holders in Arizona, California and Nevada. Water users in the river's Upper Basin will be invited to participate in the agreement at a later date.
The Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation are providing up to $11 million to pay for new Colorado River water-conservation projects.
The projects are intended to demonstrate the viability of cooperative, voluntary projects to reduce demand for Colorado River water. The program is soliciting project proposals from agriculture, and municipal and industrial Colorado River water entitlement holders.
"Our goal is to put in place a suite of proactive, voluntary measures that will reduce our risk of reaching critical reservoir levels," the Bureau of Reclamation's Lower Colorado Regional Director Terry Fulp said. "This pilot program is a good first step toward reaching that goal and, depending upon its success, could be expanded in the future."
For more than a decade, a severe drought unprecedented in the last 100 years has gripped the Colorado River, reducing water levels in storage reservoirs throughout the basin and increasing the risk of falling to critically low water levels.
In July, reservoir levels in Lake Mead dipped to the lowest level since Hoover Dam was filled in 1937.
All water conserved under this program will stay in the river system, helping to boost the declining reservoir levels and protecting the health of the entire river system.
The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to nearly 40 million people for municipal use.