Overcoming “use it or lose it” on the Colorado River

The “use it or lose it” problem in western water happens when water users who conserve are penalized by having the saved water simply go to another user.

A series of policy innovations over the last decade to overcome this problem are showing up right now in a big way in Lake Mead. In all, through these various mechanisms, more than 700,000 acre feet of water are being left in Lake Mead this year.

Without this water, Mead would probably be under elevation 1,075 right now, and we’d be having our first formal shortage declaration.