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Hickenlooper-Barrasso Bill to Help Avoid Mandatory Cuts to Colorado River Usage Passes Committee

Jul 21, 2022

Bill would reauthorize a program offering compensation to Colorado River users in exchange for voluntary and temporary water conservation measures

Program is part of Upper Colorado River Commission’s 5-point plan to comply with Bureau of Reclamation’s call for reduction in water use

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and John Barrasso applauded committee passage of their Colorado River Basin Conservation Act, a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the System Conservation Pilot Program. The program offers Colorado River water users payment in exchange for voluntarily conserving water. Any conserved water can be used to help maintain reservoir levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

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, this week the Upper Colorado River Commission released a 5-point plan to meet the reduction, which includes reauthorization of the System Conservation Pilot Program.

“This is the first step in a collaborative plan to restore the Colorado River. We need more programs where water users are empowered to conserve water where and when it makes sense for them ,” said Hickenlooper. “If we just sit around suing each other over a hundred-year-old agreement, we’ll watch the river run dry.”

“Few issues are as important to western states as water. Wyoming and the other Upper Basin states have come together to agree on an innovative plan to reduce their use of Colorado River water. I am pleased to work with Senator Hickenlooper in a bipartisan way. This legislation extends the System Conservation Pilot Project through 2026, which is a key part of this plan. This will allow for the development and testing of innovative responses to drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin,” said Barrasso.

The Hickenlooper-Barrasso bill was introduced and passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as an amendment to the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act.

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.


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