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Home Grown: Federal officials are easing water restrictions on the Colorado River

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Federal officials are easing water restrictions on the Colorado River starting next year.

A drastic improvement after above-average winter snowpack helped shore up plummeting water levels at the nation’s two largest reservoirs.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently announced Lake Mead and the lower Colorado River will operate in a Tier 1 water shortage in 2024, decreasing water cuts in Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico.

“Lake Powell came up about 85 feet, it is topped off now and has begun to come back down as releases are made to mead. Mead came up several feet and it’s continuing to rise,” said Tom Davis, Yuma County Water User’s General Manager.

Tom Davis the Yuma County Water User’s general manager said the Yuma Ag industry is feeling relief.

As a Tier 1 water shortage is a  significant improvement over this year’s first-ever Tier 2 shortage, giving back billions of gallons of Colorado River water to Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico.

“Had we not had such a good winter, the 24-month study may have even increased the impact which could have affected Yuma farmers,” said Davis.

Davis said Yuma County still has one of the most senior water rights along the river due to the strong agriculture industry.

“We have a senior right which is a good position to be under in a drought,” said Davis.

One Wells Fargo agribusiness market executive who works with clients in Yuma and the Imperial Valley said the Colorado River’s improvement this year can be credited to last year’s phenomenal winter.

“Rains and snowfall improved the snowpack so that this should be rolling down into the Colorado River, which should provide some relief to the growers,” said Fidela Irigoyen, Wells Fargo Arizona Agribusiness Market Executive.

Irigoyen said this is not only good for growers, but also consumers. 

“It also gives growers the opportunity, knowing that they have access to water, to look at maximizing crops that they grow, that are lucrative to them but also to the consumer,” said Irigoyen.

Federal officials are projecting Mead and Powell likely won’t fall below critical levels for the next two years, giving officials time to negotiate how the river should be divided between the seven states that rely on it after the current interstate agreement expires in 2026.

Article Topic Follows: Home Grown

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Samantha Byrd

Samantha Byrd joined the KYMA team in February 2022 and is the morning anchor/producer for News 11 and Fox 9.

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