Padilla Announces $367 Million in Funding for Colorado River Conservation Agreements and Salton Sea Restoration

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) announced that the Department of the Interior (DOI) awarded approximately $367 million to California partners to protect the Colorado River Basin, including nearly $295 million for several water conservation agreements with California water agencies and $72 million to restore the Salton Sea. The Colorado River Basin water conservation agreements — announced today by the Bureau of Reclamation — will enable California to conserve up to 643,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead through 2025.

The federal investment in the Salton Sea will speed up the implementation of California’s 10-year Salton Sea Management Plan (SSMP) that Padilla advocated for to bolster drought resiliency, protect important wildlife habitats, and accelerate dust suppression to protect air quality. Funding for these agreements comes from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

“In the face of historic drought and the climate crisis, California water agencies have led the way in developing creative solutions to protect our water supply,” said Senator Padilla. “I am glad to see this Inflation Reduction Act funding flow to California water users who voluntarily stepped up to conserve water and keep the system afloat. I fought hard to ensure that the Inflation Reduction Act included measures to restore the environmental and public health crises at the Salton Sea, and I’m grateful to the Department for this significant investment in improving conditions at the Salton Sea. Securing these agreements will allow us to turn toward the hard work of crafting post-2026 guidelines and building long-term resiliency in the Basin.”

“These agreements represent another critical step in our collective efforts to address the water management challenges the Colorado River Basin faces due to drought and climate change,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “Addressing the drought crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and close collaboration among federal, state, Tribal and local communities. When we work together, we can find solutions to meet the challenges of these unprecedented drought conditions.” 

The $295 million for California water users will fund projects for water conservation, water efficiency, and protection of critical environmental resources in the Colorado River System. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton joined federal, Tribal and state leaders in Nevada today at the Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA) meeting to announce these agreements with partners. Padilla also joined the Colorado River Board of California virtually today to thank the water users for their conservation and to discuss the challenges still ahead.

This funding includes agreements with the Coachella Valley Water District to save up to 105,000 acre-feet of water through 2025 and the Quechan Indian Tribe to save up to 39,000 acre-feet through 2025. Interior also recently signed an agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District to conserve approximately 100,000 acre-feet of water in 2023. Additional system conservation agreements with the Palo Verde Irrigation District and Bard Water District, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

The $72 million funding for the Salton Sea restoration is part of a generational, $250 million investment through the SSMP and will complement the $583 million in state funding committed to date. The investment includes:

  • $70 million to the state of California to fund expansion of the Species Conservation Habitat Project, which will create up to 7,000 acres of aquatic habitat for wildlife and cover exposed lakebed.
  • $2 million to the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians over five years to expand the Tribe’s technical capacity by funding positions entrusted with supporting Salton Sea project implementation. 

Last year, Senator Padilla worked to ensure that the Inflation Reduction Act included $4 billion for drought resiliency and inland waterways, including for projects to address historic drought impacting the Colorado River Basin and Salton Sea. He secured new funding to compensate water users for voluntary water use reductions, with a priority for users who receive water from the Colorado River, which will help blunt impacts to California communities as the state continues its collaborative efforts to reach an agreement with the seven River Basin states on how to sustain the River. The IRA will also fund long-term drought resiliency projects on the Colorado River.

The funding Padilla secured will also allow DOI to contribute to vital restoration projects at the Salton Sea, including to expedite existing projects that the State of California and California water users are contributing to. Last Congress, Padilla also successfully enacted his Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act to give the Interior Department additional authorities to participate in Salton Sea projects.


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