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Bureau of Reclamation officially approves lower basin plan to conserve Colorado River water

A plan submitted by Arizona, California and Nevada to save 3 million acre feet of Colorado River supply over the next two years has been adopted by the federal government.

Those three states make up the Lower Basin States part of the Colorado River Compact.

Under the new agreement, tribes, cities and irrigation districts for farms from the lower basin will take cuts to their allotted river  water supply in order to preserve the level in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

Tom Buschatzke is the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

"So it’s very significant, it’s significant that we found a way, and some of it’s compensated conservation, to yet again have our water users reduce their water use for the benefit of Lake Mead and the benefit of the Colorado River system," he said. 

The new plan updates guidance originally agreed upon by the states in 2007 and was approved by the Bureau of Reclamation this month. It includes voluntary cuts through 2026, with 1.5 million acre feet of that being conserved by the end of this year.

A separate plan by the Lower Basin States for conservation after 2026 is still under federal consideration.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.