Considering the very serious potential consequences of Lake Mead water levels falling to critically low levels, that is truly something worthy of celebration. So, too, was the remarkable bipartisanship and leadership on display among the Arizona congressional delegation, which led the DCP effort in in both the House and Senate.
On top of that, hydrology reports both in-state and in the Colorado River system indicate a 2019 winter snowpack that in many cases is well above average.
The implications of the Bureau of Reclamation’s recent April 2019 24-Month Study of projections for the 2020 water year (and, as the name implies, the next 24 months) are especially significant.
The Bureau updates its projections each month, but the April report and the August report are critical in determining how much water will be released from Lake Powell into Lake Mead in the coming year. The elevation levels forecasted to be in each of those reservoirs at the end of each year trigger those releases.
Up until the 2019 snowpack in the Rocky Mountains began seriously building in February, the odds of a first-ever shortage declaration in water deliveries in 2020 were better than even. With every 24-Month Study report from February onward, however, those odds decreased. By the recent April report, the Bureau’s analysts expressed confidence that Lake Mead would likely start 2020 “almost 10 feet above the shortage determination trigger of 1,075 feet.”
As reported by the Bureau, the improved hydrology allows Lake Powell’s operation this year to shift to a “balancing” release of up to 9.0 million acre-feet into Lake Mead.
As Bureau Commissioner Brenda Burman noted, this year’s snowpack “is welcome news.”
Still, she noted, “one good year cannot reverse the effects of nearly two decades of severe drought. Current total Colorado River System storage is approximately 45% of full capacity.”
President Trump this afternoon signed the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act, the federal legislation that opens the door for the Secretary of the Interior to sign the vital drought plan along with the governor’s representatives of the Seven Basin States.
Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke will sign on behalf of Governor Ducey. Buschatzke himself was authorized to sign the agreement on January 31 by an act of the Arizona Legislature, which the governor promptly signed.
The DCP is an agreement among the Colorado River states to take steps to protect Lake Mead in the event of a shortage declaration. Years in the making, the agreement would help protect Lake Mead water levels from falling into critical depths.
Introduced to Congress in late March, the DCP Authorization Act flew through both the U.S. Senate and House, thanks in no small part to the strong support provided by the Arizona congressional delegation, notably Sen. Martha McSally and Rep. Raul Grijalva, both of whom played key roles.
Within eleven days of its introduction, on April 8, both the House and Senate approved the legislation by acclimation and sent the Act to the President’s desk for his signature.
Members of the seven-state Colorado River coalition told a panel of U.S. senators today that the river system serving 40 million people in the Southwest and Mexico is threatened seriously by extended drought and asked that Congress back their unified plan for addressing potential delivery shortfalls.
Joined by Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, the Colorado River system representatives — including Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke — testified Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power.
Commissioner Burman testified first. She outlined the drought issues facing their region and described for the lawmakers the steps taken jointly in recent years in the U.S. by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and the seven states to address those issues.
In an extended written statement, Commissioner Burman related how, in December 2018, she “called on all seven Basin States and key water districts in the Lower Basin to complete their work on finalizing the Drought Contingency Plans by the end of 2018.”
That work was effectively completed on March 19, when the representatives of all seven Colorado River States signed the Drought Contingency Plans at the ADWR offices in Phoenix and transmitted for consideration by Congress. Buschatzke signed the DCP agreement on behalf of Arizona.
Director Buschatzke provided the Senate panel with details about the creation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or LBDCP (the Colorado River system is divided into two “basins;” the Upper Basin states including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming and the Lower Basin including Arizona, Nevada and California).
Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke providing testimony before the Senate subcommittee
“The LBDCP and the drought contingency plans crafted by the Upper Basin States are the latest examples of the States working together with the Bureau of Reclamation to achieve agreed-upon solutions to issues facing the States regarding the Colorado River,” said Director Buschatzke.
Buschatzke also described the involvement of the Republic of Mexico in the effort to protect Lake Mead from falling to critical levels. In September 2017, the U.S. and Mexico signed an update, known as Minute 323, to the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty, assuring binational cooperation in managing a more stable Colorado River system.
That agreement, said Buschatzke, “provides additional benefit to the actions of the Seven Basin States.”
Also testifying alongside Commissioner Burman and Director Buschatzke were John Entsminger, General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Patrick Tyrrell, Wyoming State Engineer.
Buschatzke, Entsminger and Tyrrell, following Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power
Chaired by Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, the Senate panelists present included Subcommittee Ranking Member Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Sen John Barrasso of Wyoming and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado.
“Now that the states have finished their work, it’s time for Congress to take it across the finish line,” said Sen. McSally, who added that she wished “to get this (legislation) dropped as soon as possible and signed into law.”
Links to the written testimony of the witnesses can be found here.
Bureau Commissioner Burman and the ADWR Director will be joined again by Entsminger and Tyrrell, as well as by representatives from the other Colorado River states, including Peter Nelson of California, James Eklund of Colorado, John D’Antonio, Jr., of New Mexico and Eric Millis of Utah.
The Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee hearing is scheduled at 10 a.m. EDT. (7 a.m. Arizona time) on Thursday. The hearing can be viewed live here.
Advocates for the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans will begin making their case to Congress on Wednesday, March 27, when four officials deeply involved in the effort to stabilize the system are scheduled to address the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power.
The witness panel includes Brenda Burman, Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources; John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority; and, Patrick Tyrrell, State Engineer for the State of Wyoming.
Like other witnesses, ADWR Director Buschatzke will provide oral and written testimony to the panel about the DCP.
Chaired by Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, the subcommittee will examine the drought plans of the Upper and Lower Basins of the river system. Before the plans can be finalized, Congress must first authorize the Department of the Interior to implement them.
Set to convene at 2:30 p.m. EDT (11:30 a.m. Arizona time), The hearing will be webcast live on the committee’s website, and an archived video will be available shortly after the hearing is complete.
Witness testimony will be available on the website at the start of the hearing.
Following the agreement reached on Tuesday to jointly pursue completion of their Drought Contingency Plans, the seven Colorado River Basin states now turn attention to Washington, D.C., where congressional action is necessary to complete the plans.
That congressional action commences next week.
On Tuesday, March 19, representatives of the seven States, including Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke, signed a Letter to Members of Congress, requesting that they support the Drought Contingency Plans. Congress first must approve legislation directing the Secretary of Interior to sign and implement the plans.
With that mission in mind, Director Buschatzke will testify next week before relevant subcommittees in the both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Director has been asked to testify regarding the drought plans on Wednesday, March 27, before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water & Power.
In addition to Director Buschatzke, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman; John Entsminger, the general manager for Southern Nevada Water Authority; and, Pat Tyrrell, the Wyoming state engineer, are scheduled to testify before the subcommittee, which is chaired by Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona.
On Thursday, March 28, Buschatzke is scheduled to testify on the DCP before the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. The Director will provide lawmakers five minutes of oral testimony and will submit a lengthier statement in writing.
Water, Oceans, and Wildlife is a subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee. Arizona Rep. Raul M. Grijalva chairs the Committee.
ADWR releases Preliminary Hydrographic Survey Report for Navajo Reservation
PHOENIX – On March 8, 2019, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) is releasing the Preliminary Hydrographic Survey Report for the Navajo Reservation (Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR) for inspection and comment. The Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR was prepared by ADWR as part of the Little Colorado River General Stream Adjudication (LCR Adjudication), which is pending before the Apache County Superior Court.
The purpose of the Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR is to provide the Navajo Nation, the United States and interested parties with the opportunity to inspect the information that ADWR gathered pertaining to water right claims filed by the Navajo Nation and by the United States (on behalf of the Navajo Nation), and to file comments with ADWR.
In accordance with A.R.S. § 45-256(H), the ADWR Director gives notice that the comment period on the Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR shall extend until June 7, 2019. All comments must be in writing and received by ADWR on or before June 7, 2019 at the following address:
The Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR is being made available for downloading from ADWR’s website at https://new.azwater.gov/adjudications. In addition, an electronic version of the N Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR is being made available for purchase for $20.00. Special arrangements may be made to purchase a hard copy of all or selected portions of the Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR, including appendices. Electronic and hard copies may be purchased by calling (602) 771-8634 or (866) 246-1414 (toll free).
A final wrap-up meeting of the 40-plus member Steering Committee – the stakeholder group that over the last 8 months debated and negotiated the Intra-Arizona DCP Implementation Plan – is scheduled for Tuesday, February 19 at the Central Arizona Project headquarters.
Arizona Department of Water Resources conducting “basin sweep” in the Upper San Pedro Basin to collect water level measurements
PHOENIX – Beginning the week of February 4, and scheduled to continue through early March, Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) field services began making an extensive effort to measure water levels in wells in the Upper San Pedro Basin.
The general area covered by this basin sweep extends from the U.S. – Mexico border to north of Benson, including the areas in and around Hereford, Sierra Vista, Huachuca City, Charleston, Fairbank, Tombstone, Saint David, and Benson, as well as, other remote areas within the basin.
ADWR staff will attempt to measure water levels at hundreds of wells in the Upper San Pedro Basin. This survey of basin wells – or basin “sweep,” as it is known — will be the first such basin survey of the area since 2006. The data collected will be used for several purposes, including analysis of water-level trends, groundwater modeling, water-level change maps, hydrologic reports, and water resource planning and management.
For more information regarding the Upper San Pedro Basin sweep, contact Sally Stewart Lee, ADWR public information officer, firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 771-8530.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is giving over much of his social media platform to getting a Drought Contingency Plan completed in Arizona.
The art on the Governor’s Twitter feed home page is one of those startling “bathtub ring” photos of Lake Mead, which depict the reservoir’s dramatic decline in recent years.
His official Facebook page includes the same image.
The Governor’s Office has emblazoned the Lake Mead photo with a quote from former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, who observed recently that “this is the moment” to get an Arizona DCP agreement through the State Legislature.
Ducey has asked lawmakers to act quickly to approve proposed legislation that would give the Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources authority to enter into a drought plan with the other Colorado River states, as well as the federal government.
In December, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, Brenda Burman, set a January 31 deadline for states to complete work on their Drought Contingency plans. The Bureau, a division of the Interior Department, is overall manager of the river system.
In addition, the Governor’s Office has published video on Twitter of a briefing of Ducey’s proposed budget, which includes funding for the DCP. The briefing, held today in Tucson, includes the graphic copied below, which demonstrates why the drought plan is so vital. Discussion of the DCP funding begins after the 59-minute mark.
As depicted in the “Securing Arizona’s Water Future” graphic below, Lake Mead is in jeopardy of falling into a high-risk zone within five years if a system-wide DCP is not in effect. Implementing the DCP, on the other hand, flattens out the curve and gives the Colorado River states time to enact additional drought-fighting measures.
Enormous water conservation symbol on display through January
PHOENIX – Do you know how much water you use daily? You may be surprised at the number. The symbol of the long-running water-conservation campaign — “Water – Use It Wisely” – clearly demonstrates that number and will be on display in the Executive Tower through January. (Image attached.)
The symbol, a tower of one-gallon jugs, is 16 feet tall and shows that on average an Arizona resident uses 120 gallons of water a day. The campaign is a partnership of 20 local municipalities and organizations working to bolster water conservation efforts in Arizona communities. The Arizona Department of Water Resources is a Steering Committee partner of this regional campaign.