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Colorado River Drought Accelerates Plans to Pay to Forgo Water

March 17, 2021, 10:01 AM

A 20-year drought in the Colorado River Basin and another warm, dry winter are driving Western states to look at reducing water demand by paying agricultural users and others to voluntarily reduce their consumption.

Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, all in the river’s upper basin, are evaluating the tool of demand management as a way to leave more water in the river. The evaluation, called a feasibility investigation, is required before the four states would adopt such a program under a 2019 drought agreement.

For farms, it essentially means letting fields go fallow—potentially for years—in exchange ...