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Walton Family Foundation Statement on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Assessment of Colorado River Reservoirs

August 15, 2023
“Any plan to protect those who rely on the river has to start with protecting the river itself.”

Washington, D.C. - The Bureau of Reclamation today released their latest study estimating projected water levels for the next two years in key reservoirs along the Colorado River. This month's analysis projected that Lake Mead will be at elevations that require the lower basin water users to continue to operate under shortage conditions. While Lake Powell has recovered slightly, the report shows the Colorado River Basin continues to suffer from the effects of severe drought, exacerbated by climate change. There remains an urgent need for more concerted, innovative and dramatic water conservation and climate-resilient approaches to reducing water uses.

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Mark Shields

Moira Mcdonald, director of the Walton Family Foundation’s Environment Program issued the following statement in response:

“It's clear that we need to rethink how we manage the Colorado River in order for it to continue to provide for the 40 million people who depend on it. Hotter and drier conditions are the new normal in the Colorado River Basin and decades of taking more water from the river than it can afford to give have left it severely depleted. A wet winter, along with short-term agreements to reduce water use, have kept the river from the brink of collapse. But we cannot continue to do only enough to bridge from one crisis to the next. Any durable plan to protect the communities that rely on the river has to start with protecting the river itself.

That means investing in long-term, nature-based solutions and water conservation efforts that match the scale of the problem. The good news is we have solutions that work if we are willing to prioritize them. Projects that better manage forests by restoring wetlands and meadows connected to them offer many benefits. They create a healthier environment, limit the spread of wildfires and absorb flood waters. Recent efforts creating small, leaky, temporary dams in strategic areas on the Colorado River also make river ecosystems more resilient to climate change. Applied at scale these kinds of efforts can have an outsized impact.

The Department of Interior is developing new guidelines for the Colorado River. Those plans will impact river management for decades. It's critical that these guidelines support nature-based projects. We have to focus on approaches that emphasize the long-term health of the river so it stays flowing for generations to come. Prioritizing the needs of nature, along with the needs of communities, is the only path to long-term water security.“

About the Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit