California Offers to Dial Back Water Use Amid Lake Mead Drought

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

Amid the ongoing Lake Mead drought, California is now offering to cut back its use of water from the lake next year. The state, on Wednesday, made an offer to conserve 130 billion gallons, or 400,000 acre-feet, of water from Lake Mead annually. The Hill reported that this would be from 2023 through 2026. It would be a way of helping this situation improve.

“This water, which would otherwise be used by California’s communities and farms, will meaningfully contribute to stabilizing the Colorado River reservoir system,” according to state water agencies in a letter aimed for the federal government. It is from both water usage and the drought, accelerated by climate change, in the West that are contributing to shortages in water in Lake Mead. The lake actually is a Colorado Reservoir. It is in the southwestern United States. What this drought is doing is actually leaving that region with a need to conserve water.

Lake Mead Provides Water To Nearly 25 Million People

Did you know that Lake Mead provides water from the Colorado River to nearly 25 million people? It does. And the water happens to be going for things like municipal, industrial, and farming purposes. The head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which is a federal agency in charge of the country’s water resources, said that the region needs to conserve at least 651.7 billion gallons of water in 2023. This hopefully will be done to protect Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Meanwhile, there are experts who have called this California proposal as an important step. Yet they also say it is not strong enough to fully solve this problem.

“It’s a really good first step and it’s a good sign that things could be moving, but we’re going to need 4, 5, 6, 7 times that amount of water here in the very near future,” Chris Kuzdas, a senior water program manager with the Environmental Defense Fund, said. 

Director Calls California Offer ‘Momentum’ In Right Direction

Sarah Porter, who is the director of Arizona State University’s Kyl Center for Water Policy, would also describe the California offer as “momentum” in the right direction. Yet it remains not enough. Porter notes that California’s proposal is based on voluntary conservation. This means that these may or may not be met in practice. 

“It’s hard to say just from this letter how real that 400,000 acre-feet is,” Porter said. She would say that this is simply a starting point in negotiations. Porter also said that the state and other parties could bring additional significant offers to the table in the future. “You don’t open with your final offer,” Porter said.