Considered the ‘Lifeline of the West,’ the Colorado River Basin (CRB) provides drinking water and hydropower to more than 40 million people across seven U.S. states, 29 federally-recognized tribal reservations, and two Mexican states. Due to a combination of historic drought and chronic overuse, average flow in the Basin has declined by roughly 20% since 2000, putting millions of people at risk.
Albeit with some relief from snowfall in early 2023, the crisis of dwindling supplies in the Colorado River remains at the forefront of western water affairs, particularly as Basin states reconcile with meeting current and future reduction mandates. At present, the states and federal government are deciding how to reduce annual Colorado River consumption by another 2 million to 4 million acre-feet (MAF) (12% to 25% of total Colorado River allocation).
No sector will be immune to the effects of these water shortages with the agriculture industry expected to experience the brunt of the impact. Power generation, tribal water use, and residential water use will be further limited if drought conditions continue in the Western U.S.
Bluefield’s team of water experts has mapped out the policy landscape governing the Colorado River Basin, evaluated regional, state, and city-level responses to decreasing water supplies, and determined the potential scale of impacts on utilities and Tribes.
Table of Contents
Water Issues in the Colorado River Basin
- Identifying Water Problems Impacting the Colorado River Basin
- Colorado River Basin Water Balance
- Surface Water Reliance in Basin States
- Colorado River Water Level Benchmark
- Policy Timeline
- Federal Funding for Western Water
- Basin Overviews
- Lower Basin Water Reductions in 2023
- State Policy Snapshot: California
- Major Metropolitan Areas in the Colorado River Basin
- Tribal Shares of Colorado River Basin Water Rights
- IIJA Tribal Water Funding
- Resolved Rights for Tribes
- Partially Resolved / Unresolved Rights for Tribes
Impact Analysis & State Profiles
- State-level Utility Impact
- State Profiles
- New Mexico