States Have Started Negotiating New Rules to Keep the Colorado River From Crashing. Here’s What They Want

The states that share the Colorado River need to negotiate new rules to better manage the dwindling river so it can continue to meet the needs of millions of people across the Southwest. That means finding ways to keep more water in the river and reservoirs, which means less water to go around.

The high-stakes, multi-year negotiation process between the states — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico in the upper basin and Arizona, Nevada and California in the lower basin — along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, officially kicked off in June.

By the start of 2027, the states and the federal government are expected to have a new agreement on rules to manage the river so that Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the country’s largest reservoirs, don’t hit critically low levels. Climate change and overuse have stressed the river system and helped drive both reservoirs to drop to record-low water levels.