Arizona, Nevada and California on Monday agreed to a $1.2 billion plan that would allow them to cut water usage from the drought-besieged Colorado River in return for federal funding.

The breakthrough came after negotiations had stalled for a year. It would cut at least 3 million acre-feet of water — the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land at one foot deep — for the next three years, with half of those cuts implemented by the end of 2024. That’s about 10% of their Colorado River allocation, according to CNN.

FILE - People attend a news conference on Lake Mead at Hoover Dam, April 11, 2023, near Boulder City, Nev. Arizona, California and Nevada on Monday, May 22, proposed a deal to significantly cut their water use from the drought-stricken Colorado River over the next three years.

More than 40 million people in seven states in the U.S., more than two dozen Native American tribes and parts of Mexico depend on the river for their water supply. The river also sends water to farms growing most of the winter vegetables in the nation, and it generates hydropower as well.

The tentative agreement reached by the three states would ward off forced cuts amid ongoing drought. The states, tribes, municipalities and local irrigation districts would be paid for not using water. The funds would come from the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year.

About half the total given up would come from California, which has agreed to reduce its consumption by 1.6 million acre-feet. Bill Hasencamp, who manages Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of California’s 19 million consumers said that the state’s rainy winter meant they needed less from the river.

The Southwest states saw their first ever federal water cuts in 2021.

The Colorado River has been dwindling for years amid a decades-long drought that has been amplified by climate change, increased demand and the resulting overuse. During the drought, reservoirs such as California’s Lake Mead have dipped to historic lows. The recent soggy, snowy winter has provided some relief, though it did not solve all the region’s water problems.

With News Wire Services

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