Interior Department begins developing future guidelines for the Colorado River

The Department of the Interior is initiating the process to develop future operating guidelines and strategies to protect the Colorado River.
The public process includes gathering feedback on strategies for handling the Colorado River Basin, which is currently facing drought.

The Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., is initiating the formal process to develop future operating guidelines and strategies to protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River. The new guidelines will replace the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, which are set to expire at the end of 2026. 

The public process will gather feedback for the next set of operating guidelines, including new strategies that take into account the current and projected hydrology of the Colorado River Basin. The Basin is currently facing an historic drought driven by climate change that is increasing the likelihood of warming temperatures and continued low-runoff conditions, and therefore reduced water availability across the region. 

“The Biden-Harris administration has held strong to its commitment to work with states, Tribes and communities throughout the West to find consensus solutions in the face of climate change and sustained drought,” says Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau. “Those same partnerships are fundamental to our ongoing work to ensure the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River Basin into the future. As we look toward the next several years across the Basin, the new set of operating guidelines for Lake Powell and Lake Mead will be developed collaboratively based on the best-available science.” 

This process is separate from other efforts to protect the Colorado River Basin through the end of 2026. The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to revise the December 2007 Record of Decision will set interim guidelines through the end of 2026. This new process will develop guidelines for when the current interim guidelines expire. 

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