House Unanimously Passes Plan to Protect the Colorado River

April 8, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House unanimously passed the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act to safeguard the water supply for 40 million people in the Southwest. 

Rep. Greg Stanton, a co-sponsor of the bill, stressed the importance of protecting the river from continued over-allocation. 

“Forty million people in seven western states get water from the Colorado—and nearly 40 percent of the water used in Phoenix comes from the Colorado,” Stanton said during debate on the House Floor. “We absolutely must protect it, and we must do so without delay.”  

The bill, H.R. 2030, authorizes the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), which has been developed by the seven Colorado River Basin States to safeguard the water supply through 2026. Currently, the Colorado River Basin is experiencing its 19th year of drought. To address historic drought conditions, the Colorado River Basin States (Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming) crafted the DCP in a bipartisan, cooperative approach. The DCP uses voluntary water reductions and reservoir management strategies to avoid historic lows in Colorado River reservoirs that would trigger dramatic water delivery cuts to Basin States.

The legislation directs the Secretary of the Interior to immediately execute the agreements reached so water conservation efforts can get underway this year.

“Tonight’s vote marks the culmination of many years of difficult and painstaking work—and most importantly, compromise,” Stanton said. “We got here with strong support from interests across Arizona—from our tribal nations including the Gila River Indian Community and the Colorado River Indian Tribes, to municipalities including the City of Phoenix, to industrial users and environmental organizations. This vote was unanimous and this issue—managing our water supplies for the future—is a bipartisan one.” 

Stanton’s complete remarks on the House Floor, as prepared:

I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his leadership as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and as a senior member of the Arizona delegation on this important legislation.   

Mr. Speaker, the importance of the Colorado River to the West, and to my state of Arizona, cannot be overstated.  Forty million people in seven western states get water from the Colorado.  And nearly 40 percent of the water used in Phoenix comes from the Colorado.  We absolutely must protect it, and we must do so without delay.  

To prepare for the impact of the changing climate and a drier future, water users in the seven Colorado River Basin states reached agreements to voluntarily conserve water and better manage the river to mitigate the risk of water levels falling to perilous levels in Lakes Mead and Powell, the two largest man-made reservoirs in the United States.  

A little over a week ago, the Natural Resources Subcommittee heard testimony from representatives of all seven basin states on the urgency to authorize the Drought Contingency Plan as quickly as possible.  

This urgency was also expressed by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman who described the consequences of not advancing the Drought Contingency Plan.  She said and I quote “This is a dangerous situation, where we could be reaching critically low elevations that effect the drinking water of 40 million people, that effect 5.5 million acres that could go dry, that effects species both endangered and not endangered, that effect entire economies and the recreation of the Southwest.  Action is needed now” – end quote.

The legislation before us today is critical because it directs the Secretary of the Interior to immediately execute the agreements reached so water conservation efforts can get underway this year.  

This is by no means a permanent long-term solution and we all recognize that more must be done, but this legislation is an important first step and it must advance without delay.  

It is also important to note that this legislation has strong support from a wide variety of interests across the state of Arizona, from our tribal nations including the Gila River Indian Community and the Colorado River Indian Tribes to municipalities, including the city of Phoenix, to industrial users and environmental organizations.  

I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this bill, and I yield the floor.