Jun 22, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Water conservation gets funding amid a worsening drought

Hourglass with blue liquid.

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

A large coalition is committing $8 million to plug a funding gap in a program that helps to conserve water in Arizona amid the region's worsening drought.

Why it matters: The announcement shows how coalitions of businesses, nonprofits and state and Native American groups can together pursue agreements to address water management in the Southwest.

Driving the news: The money closes a funding gap needed to complete a $38 million, three-year water conservation program with the state of Arizona and the Colorado River Indian Tribes.

  • Through the program, the tribes are fallowing thousands of acres of farmlands in order to conserve water.
  • Corporate funders include Microsoft, Google, Procter & Gamble, Target and Intel. Philanthropic backers include the Walton Family Foundation and the Water Funder Initiative.

The big picture: The money will complete what funders call one of the largest multisector drought response efforts yet, which has worked to save nearly 150,000 acre-feet (49 billion gallons) of water through the tribes' conservation system.

The details: Kevin Moran of the Environmental Defense Fund, which helped facilitate the agreement, said this project and others elsewhere on the river have helped prevent water shortage declarations.

  • But one will almost certainly be needed this year due to the drought's severity and Lake Mead's record low level.
  • Arizona, for example, is expecting to have to cut its portion of water from Lake Mead by about 167 billion gallons in 2022, a press release states.
  • As of June 15, 87% of Arizona was in "extreme" to "exceptional" drought.

The bottom line: "It's clear that Arizona and the Southwest are ground zero for the impacts of climate change," Moran told Axios.

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