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California's Colorado River Water Use Highlights:

California's Colorado River Water Use:

From the 2023 Annual Report – View Full Report Here ⟶

Water agencies across Southern California took steps in 2023 to further reduce their use of Colorado River water as part of their commitment to implement immediate conservation measures under the Lower Basin Plan for the Supplemental EIS for short-term Colorado River operations.

The plan – submitted to the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) in May – calls for 3 million acre-feet of additional conservation in the Lower Basin by the end of 2026. Approximately 1.6 million acre-feet of that would be generated from California, in-line with California’s proposal in late 2022 to conserve up to an additional 400,000 acre-feet of water a year for four years.

To support some of these actions,California agencies are executing six contracts for federal funding for short-term water savings under Reclamation’s LC Conservation Program. At the start of the year, some California agencies also continued their conservation commitments funded through the 500+ Plan by Reclamation, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Project, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan) and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Thanks to these efforts and a wet water year, Colorado River water deliveries to California in 2023 are on track to be the lowest in the state since 1949 – approximately 700,000 acre-feet lower than the state’s 4.4 million acre-foot apportionment and the state will store a record amount of Intentionally Created Surplus in Lake Mead.

In August, agencies also submitted proposals for long-term conservation actions that would provide water savings well beyond 2026. Those proposals are being evaluated by Reclamation.

California celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Quantification Settlement Agreement on Oct. 10, 2023. The landmark agreement generated the largest ag-to-urban water transfer in the nation, led to new agricultural conservation in California, and facilitated a new era of collaboration among California’s agricultural and urban water agencies.

Leadership at the Colorado River Board of California also changed hands in 2023, with the election of Imperial Irrigation District Director JB Hamby as River Board chairman in January.


IID continues to make significant strides to support the Colorado River, while providing a reliable water supply for Imperial Valley to grow food for the nation. IID now conserves about 500,000 acre-feet each year, amounting to approximately 16% of its annual entitlement. In support of the Lower Basin Plan, IID has proposed conserving an additional 250,000 acre-feet each year (for a total of 24% of its supply) from 2024-2026, and continues working with federal officials to develop the mechanisms necessary to implement these commitments. In 2023, IID continues to implement its Equitable Distribution Program, as one of many water management initiatives, and will end the year meeting all local water demands and QSA obligations while creating excess water for Lake Mead.

IID’s support for the Salton Sea continues. In late 2022, the IID Board of Directors authorized a landmark agreement with California and the Department of the Interior designating $250 million in Reclamation funding to accelerate dust suppression and habitat projects at the Salton Sea to facilitate water conservation in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys.

IID also saluted the completion of its newest reservoir, the Lloyd Allen Water Conservation Operational Reservoir.


PVID continued to conserve water under a short-term agricultural land fallowing program funded through the 500+ Plan, conserving more than 58,400 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead through July 2023. The fallowing is based on an ongoing partnership between PVID and Metropolitan. As part of the effort to boost Lake Mead, Metropolitan turned over available fallowing capacity to Reclamation to create system water, rather than funding fallowing and transferring the conserved water to urban Southern California. PVID and Metropolitan submitted a proposal to continue this short-term fallowing with federal funding under Reclamation’s new conservation program. Starting Aug. 1, 2023, the PVID- Metropolitan fallowing program would be at a maximum fallowing call of 25,947 acres and continue for three consecutive years, through July 2026, for a total estimated water savings of 381,420 acre-feet.

PVID celebrated its centennial on Oct. 26, 2023. In 1923, the Palo Verde Mutual Water Company, The Palo Verde Levee District and the Palo Verde Drainage District combined to form PVID.


CVWD took action in late 2022 to save more than 9,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water by temporarily curtailing replenishment at its Thomas E. Levy Facility, under the 500+ Plan. Replenishment was also curtailed in 2023 and will continue through 2025, with short-term funding from Reclamation’s new conservation program – approved by CVWD’s board and Reclamation – saving 35,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water annually. A second application for short-term funding, approved by CVWD’s board in November 2022 but still awaiting Reclamation’s approval, focuses on agricultural fallowing programs, with the intent of saving up to 10,000 acre-feet per year for three years.

CVWD also requested federal funding for longer-term conservation under Reclamation’s new conservation program. One proposal would expand a recycled water project to produce an additional 1,000 acre-feet of recycled water for agricultural irrigation. A second program would incentivize conservation on golf courses through irrigation efficiencies and turf removal, for up to 300 acre-feet of annual savings.


In addition to temporarily turning over to Reclamation its fallowing programs with PVID and Bard Water District, Metropolitan also initiated plans in 2023 to leave more water stored in Lake Mead through at least 2026, to boost lake levels in the short term. In addition, Metropolitan took steps in 2023 to permanently reduce the use of Colorado River water in urban Southern California through conservation and development of new local supplies. The agency co- sponsored statewide legislation – passed in September and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in November – prohibiting businesses and institutions from using drinking water to irrigate decorative or non-functional lawns. And Metropolitan took steps to expand its turf-rebate program, incentivizing Southern California residents and business owners to replace their grass with more sustainable landscaping.

Metropolitan also continued to advance Pure Water Southern California, including receiving $80 million in funds from the State of California in July to advance development of the project, which will purify cleaned wastewater to produce a new large-scale, drought-proof water supply for Southern California. When complete, it will produce enough water to meet the annual demands of more than 500,000 homes.