WASHINGTON – Yesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and John Barrasso’s Colorado River Basin Conservation Act, a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the System Conservation Pilot Program. The System Conservation Pilot Program offers compensation to Colorado River users in exchange for voluntary and temporary water conservation measures.
Video of the hearing is available here.
“This bill empowers Colorado River water conservation during this historic drought,” said Hickenlooper. “Yesterday’s hearing is one more step in a collaborative effort to find a solution.”
“It’s critical that Colorado River Basin states take action to increase the amount of water in the Colorado River system. That’s why Senator Hickenlooper and I teamed up to introduce the Colorado River Basin Conservation Act. Our bipartisan legislation would provide incentives to farmers and ranchers to use techniques that conserve water to help address the declining levels of Lake Mead and Lake Powell,” said Barrasso.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation called on Colorado River states to reduce water use by 2 to 4 million acre feet by the end of next year or face mandatory cuts. In response, the Upper Colorado River Commission released a 5-point plan to meet the reduction, which includes reauthorization of the System Conservation Pilot Program. These water conservation measures from the System Conservation Pilot Program can be used to help maintain reservoir levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.
In July, the Colorado River Basin Conservation Act was introduced and passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as an amendment to the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act. The hearing yesterday is a different avenue to ensure eventual passage of this crucial piece of legislation.
As governor, Hickenlooper helped negotiate the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan which sought to manage demand in order to maintain Lake Powell and Lake Mead levels, ensure compliance with the 1922 Colorado River Compact, and stave off mandatory cuts from the Bureau of Reclamation.