LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – The Bureau of Reclamation says it has secured the final piece of a water conservation puzzle that will protect and preserve the waters of Lake Mead through 2026. At the same time, it’s just beginning to prepare for what happens after that.

On Tuesday, the bureau announced three deals with California water entities that’ll keep nearly 1.3 billion additional gallons of water in Lake Mead for the next two years. That brings the system-wide water savings to a total of approximately 9.7 billion gallons.

The agreements were the last among many and represent a collective investment in the Colorado River’s future.

“Taken together, all 24 agreements are expected to conserve more than 1.58 million acre-feet of water with an investment of up to $670.2 million,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Michael Brain.

It’s taken time, energy and countless hours of negotiation to reach all the agreements necessary to achieve this level of conservation.

But reclamation commissioner, and Las Vegas native, Camille Touton, says collaboration is a key component of the region’s future success.

“It hasn’t always been easy or simple, but through it all, everyone across the basin has remained united in our shared understanding that we could not and will not solve this crisis unless we do it together,” the commissioner explained.

Much of the water savings come from “compensated conservation.” That means the government is paying farmers, who hold much of the lower basin’s water rights – not to grow crops so more water is available for general use.

Now that plans are in place for the next two years, the Bureau of Reclamation and all its partners will shift their focus to the future.

Officials say it will take careful planning to survive this crisis.

The Colorado River lost around a trillion gallons of water since the drought began in 2000 – that’s about what it takes to fill Lake Mead. It could take decades of wet winters to replace those losses.


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