Bipartisan Colorado River Drought Plan Signed into Law Averting Potentially Catastrophic Outcomes for People and Birds

Audubon worked throughout the West to advocate for the Drought Contingency Plan.

WASHINGTON—“More than 400 bird species and 36 million people rely on the Colorado River. Studies show that as temperatures continue to rise, the Colorado River and the rivers that feed it will become even more important for people and for birds like the Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the Great Blue Heron,” said David Yarnold, President and CEO of National Audubon Society (@david_yarnold) after President Donald Trump signed the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). “This legislation is the result of a multi-year, multi-state, and bipartisan effort to avoid catastrophic shortages on the Colorado River. Audubon is proud to have worked with so many partners in the Colorado River basin to support this effort.”

The DCP will help prevent critically low water elevations in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoirs, and ensure predictable water supplies for communities, farms, wildlife, an extensive recreation economy, and the health of the Colorado River. Located along the Colorado River, Lake Mead provides drinking water to all major cities in the lower basin (Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas) as well as millions of acres of farmland in Arizona, California, Nevada, and northwestern Mexico. Audubon utilized its unparalleled wingspan to advocate for the DCP across the West.

“The Colorado River is the hardest working river, but after decades of drought, we needed these new rules to share the responsibility of keeping more water in rivers and reservoirs. Shortage on the river is imminent, but we can avoid catastrophe with measures like the DCP,” said Jennifer Pitt, Audubon’s Colorado River Program Director. “While there is more work to be done, this is a major step not just for the future of the Colorado River, but for the people, birds, economies and communities of the arid West.”

The bill passed overwhelmingly in Congress last week with swift bipartisan actions from Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ).

What’s Next:

Audubon will continue to work with stakeholders across the Colorado River Basin during DCP implementation, as we also work with all parties to improve conditions at the Salton Sea.

  • Federal programs and funding are needed to implement conservation solutions, including the DCP, on the Colorado River and at the Salton Sea. Federal appropriations for water conservation, drought relief, and restoration must be kept constant or increased.
  • Birds tell us about the health of our surroundings— so we’ve known for quite a while that the Salton Sea is in rapid decline. As the sea shrinks, impacts to people and wildlife grow, with air quality worsening and important bird habitat disappearing. Audubon will continue to urge California agencies, water districts, and federal partners to face this challenge.

To learn more about what's next, visit:

About Audubon:

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more and how to help at and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

The Western Water Initiative is Audubon's multi-state effort to protect the Colorado River and the West’s network of Saline Lakes. Some 65,000 members strong and growing, the network advocates for science-based, non-partisan water policies and management that benefit rivers and lakes for the birds, wildlife, habitats, cities, and economies they support. To learn more, visit:


Contact: Joey Kahn,, 480-788-2416