Following the Department of the Interior’s announcement that the Colorado River will operate in a Tier 2a shortage condition in 2023, triggering additional mandatory cuts in Arizona, Rep. Greg Stanton reiterated that all stakeholders along the Colorado River need to do their part to conserve water to avoid system collapse.

Under the Drought Contingency Plan, Arizona must reduce its usage by 592,000 acre-feet, approximately 21 percent of the state’s annual apportionment. But California, which has not met its shared obligation to conserve water, will see no cuts.

California’s Colorado River region increased water usage by nearly 41 percent in April 2022 compared to April 2020. The South Coast, including Los Angeles County, increased usage by 25 percent. Statewide, water usage increased nearly 18 percent in the same period.

Furthermore, California reportedly plans to not only use its full Colorado River allocation in 2022, but withdraw Intentionally Created Surplus balances from Lake Mead, negatively affecting the reservoir’s storage in a time of need.

Stanton outlined his concerns about California’s increased water usage in a June letter to the Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation, and urged the agency to ensure all basin states do their fair share to conserve water and safeguard the long-term health of the river.

With today’s announcement, the Department of Interior fell far short of that goal.

“The federal government has failed to offer a plan that requires all states to make the cuts necessary to save the Colorado from system collapse,” Stanton said. “Today’s announcement merely kicks the can down the road and risks turning this crisis into catastrophe.”

Arizona’s contribution to water conservation in Lake Mead this year alone will be approximately 800,000 acre-feet, in part due to cuts under the current Tier I shortage, the 500 Plus Plan and other voluntary conservation efforts. Earlier this summer, Valley cities including Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa entered into the first stages of their drought management plans and asked residents to voluntarily conserve water.

Stanton helped lead efforts in the House to pass the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act, the seven-state plan to safeguard water for more than 40 million people in the southwest and stave off mandatory cuts from the Bureau or Reclamation—and secured more than $350 million for the federal government to meet its obligations under the plan.