Low water level at Lake Mead
Low water levels due to drought are seen in the Hoover Dam reservoir of Lake Mead near Las Vegas. REUTERS/Bridget Bennett

Seven U.S. states have reached an agreement on conserving water from the Colorado River through 2026, the Department of the Interior said on Monday, describing the deal as a “historic consensus.”

The department in a statement said voluntary commitments by the states will conserve 3 million acre-feet of water.

The agreement is meant to address ongoing severe drought and climate change in the Colorado River Basin, on which 40 million people and 30 tribal nations rely for drinking water and electricity, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to working with states, tribes and communities throughout the West to find consensus solutions in the face of climate change and sustained drought,” said Haaland.

Mexico also uses Colorado River water, and farmers who rely on the Colorado River water supply national and even international food supply systems.

The new operating guidelines, set to be advanced next month by the Department of the Interior, replace a 2007 agreement.

Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico in the Upper Basin, and California, Arizona and Nevada in the Lower Basin, which share Colorado River waters under the compact, had been struggling for months to come up with an agreement on cuts after federal officials asked for reduced usage of 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water per year, an unprecedented reduction of 15% to 30% in the coming year.