WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Editor's note: The above video aired during a previous broadcast.
A deal to keep the Southwest's lifeblood flowing has been announced, the culmination of a years-long debate between states that rely on the Colorado River.
But, Arizona water officials affirmed that the plan is a "short-term" solution to a much larger problem.
The proposal, announced by the Department of the Interior on Monday, is expected to conserve an estimated three million acre-feet of Colorado River water through the end of 2026. The Southwest's historically wet winter has bettered water levels for the near future, but the plan leaves post-2026 guidelines up for change.
Federal officials will now take the proposal into consideration while deciding how to change the Colorado River shortage guidelines in light of the Southwest's ongoing megadrought.
It's unknown whether federal officials will agree to the proposal. The conservation estimate falls short of the immediate two to four million acre-feet across-the-board water cut federal officials previously said was needed for water to continue pouring into Lake Mead. Instead, the plan estimates that 1.5 million acre-feet of water in Lake Mead will be conserved by the end of 2024.
"We are frontloading the water in Lake Mead, therefore protecting Lake Mead earlier," said Central Arizona Project General Manager Brenda Burman.
However, Bureau of Reclamation representatives have said numerous times that they would prefer states work together to form a plan rather than force federal officials to impose one. This plan was brought forward by Arizona, Nevada and California and has reportedly been given the seal of approval by Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming. Another potential positive point: The plan does not cut water from any state outside of the already-established priority system.
The Department of the Interior is expected to finalize the changes in its near-term Colorado River drought guidelines later this year.
"From here, our work must continue to take action and address the long-term issues of climate change and overallocation to ensure we have a sustainable Colorado River for all who rely upon it," Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs said.
See the entire proposal here Arizona, Nevada and California sent to federal officials here:
This is a developing story. Tune in to 12News for the latest information.
Water levels are dwindling across the Southwest as the megadrought continues. Here's how Arizona and local communities are being affected.
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