Phoenix to get up to $60M for giving up Colorado River water

By Christina Estes
Published: Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - 9:06pm
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2023 - 11:27am

Lake Mead
Luke Runyon /KUNC
Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir, has been hit hard by rising temperatures and downstream demands.

The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved a plan Wednesday to give up a share of its Colorado River allocation in exchange for money.

“This agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation gives us a fantastic opportunity to not only reduce our Colorado River water usage but also to invest the up to $60 million in compensation provided in diversifying our water portfolio and providing more conservation tools for our residents and industries,” said Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari.

Phoenix will forego up to 150,000 acre-feet of the city’s river water entitlement over three years. That’s about the amount of water used by 450,000 households in a year. Phoenix said the deal, which is in addition to reduced deliveries Arizona agreed to in the Drought Contingency Plan, will have no impact on city water customers.

The agreement between Phoenix and the Bureau of Reclamation is part of a short-term plan to incentivize water conservation and protect Lake Mead levels.

“We join communities such as Tucson as well as the Gila River Indian Community in being part of the solution. I’m hopeful that this will be part of a bridge agreement to get us to another major agreement on the Colorado River,” said Mayor Kate Gallego. “We recognize that safeguarding the Colorado River is not just about protecting our city’s water supply but also about ensuring the future viability of the Southwest."

Seven states rely on the Colorado River, which has been drying up for years. By 2026, the states and federal government will need to renegotiate who gets how much of the river water.

Phoenix primarily gets its water from the Salt and Verde Rivers through the Salt River Project and the Colorado River via the Central Arizona Project.

Water conservation tips from the city of Phoenix

  • Know how your landscaping or sprinkler timer works. Decrease watering a​​s weather cools or whenever it rains in your area.
  • Don't over-water native plants. Learn how much water they need and realize that they are desert plants and will die from too much water.
  • Plant grass only where children and pets use it, not just as a decoration.
  • Invest in a swimming pool cover to help prevent evaporation.
  • Sweep your driveway instead of hosing it down.
  • Don't fill your washing machine with water if you don't have a full load of clothes in it.
  • Run your dishwasher only when it's full.
  • Buy low-flow toilets and faucets when you replace existing ones.