The Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday announced that it will provide another $700 million for water conservation projects in Arizona, Nevada and California.

The projects, which Reclamation estimates could save more than 700,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead, include water distribution structures, advanced metering infrastructure, farm efficiency improvements, canal lining, turf removal, groundwater banking, desalinization, recycling water and water purification. 

The funding represents "Bucket 2" projects in the Lower Colorado Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program. The agency previously agreed to pay Lower Colorado River water users around $651 million in the program's first round of agreements, according to agency data.

The agreements are the result of $4 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding that's designed to bolster water-saving efforts in the Colorado River Basin and other regions suffering from the impacts of long-term drought.

The aim is to hold together water conservation efforts in the basin until the end of 2026, when current water guidelines will expire and state water officials will need to propose a new framework for distributing water cuts in times of drought. 

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“We are already seeing returns on the historic investments made by the Biden-Harris administration in the Lower Colorado River Basin, with commitments to save more than 1.7 million acre-feet of water in the basin through 2026 facilitated largely through the Bucket 1 program,” Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton said in a release.

“These Bucket 2 projects will build long-term resiliency in the basin by investing in system efficiency projects across all sectors.”

Water users can follow two paths through the program. The first allows them to receive a set payment of $330 per acre-foot through a one-year agreement, $365 per acre-foot for a two-year agreement, and $400 per acre-foot for a three-year agreement.

The second option allows for long-term agreements that also pay water users for each acre-foot they leave in Lake Mead, though under a different price framework.

Payments under that option would be based on each water user’s proposal, the duration of the contract, and verification methodologies, according to the Congressional Research Service

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