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A Joint ADWR/CAP Statement On CO River Shortage Preparedness

Stronger Together

As the drought in the Colorado River Basin extends beyond its 20th year, we anticipate the first-ever shortage declaration on the Colorado River. The shortage will result in a substantial cut to Arizona’s share of the river, with reductions falling largely to central Arizona agricultural users.  These reductions are painful, but we are prepared. We have long understood the risks to Arizona’s Colorado River supplies and have been planning for decades, including the successful efforts to create a Drought Contingency Plan for the Colorado River system in 2019. 

It’s important to note that a shortage means a reduction in the Colorado River supply available to Arizona. While we may have less water coming to Arizona from the Colorado River in 2022, the river will continue to be a vital source of water for generations to come.

In 2021, the river is currently operating in a “Tier Zero” status, requiring the state to contribute 192,000 acre-feet of Arizona’s 2.8 million acre-foot annual entitlement to Lake Mead. This contribution is coming entirely from the Central Arizona Project (CAP) system. 

Based on the current hydrology, it is likely that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will elevate the shortage level to a “Tier 1” in 2022. This would require Arizona to reduce uses by a total of 512,000 acre-feet, again, borne almost entirely by the CAP system. While significant, the high priority CAP water supply for cities and tribes is not affected due to the implementation of agreements among Arizona water users.

We are prepared for Tier 1 reductions because Arizona water users have been working collaboratively for many years to protect our Colorado River water supply.

Specifically, the seven states in the Colorado River Basin and the U.S., and the Republic of Mexico, developed plans for managing the Colorado River, known in the U.S. as the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), which lasts until 2026. Arizona prepared a unique and innovative way to implement the plan in Arizona through its DCP Steering Committee. 

The DCP Steering Committee, which included more than 40 representatives of tribes, cities, agriculture, developers, environmental organizations, and elected officials, worked collectively to share the risks and benefits of the DCP.  Arizona’s DCP implementation plan represents the best of Arizona water management: collaboration, cooperation, and innovation. 

The plan shares resources and mitigates the impacts of shortage reductions.  In the plan, some are committing to leaving extra water in Lake Mead to reduce future risks, while others are sharing water with the most severely impacted of the state’s water users, central Arizona agriculture Together these efforts reduce the pain of the near-term reductions while addressing risks of future shortages.  The result is the Arizona water community is prepared, even in the midst of a decades-long drought.

The actions taken by Arizona’s water-community stakeholders, legislature and by Governor Ducey manage the immediate risk to supplies on the Colorado River, providing time while we develop new rules and programs to sustain the river after 2026.

As we face the prospect of a hotter and drier future, we are confident that with our long history of successful collaboration among our diverse stakeholders – agriculture, tribes, cities, environment, and industry, we will continue to find innovative and effective solutions to sustain Arizona’s Colorado River supply.

Featured

Appreciation Week Recognizes Essential Services of Arizona Water Professionals

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         April 1, 2021

Appreciation Week Recognizes Essential Services of Arizona Water Professionals

PHOENIX – Every variety of event from music festivals to awards ceremonies has gone “virtual” in the era of the COVID-19 virus. The now-annual event to honor Arizona’s water professionals is following suit. 

The “Virtual Kick-Off” of the third-annual Arizona Water Professionals Appreciation Week — April 5-11 — is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Monday, April 5. 

Arizona leaders from both within and outside the state’s “water community” will take time during   Appreciation Week to recognize the thousands of water professionals working to provide residents with clean and sustainable water supplies. Appreciation Week also aims to highlight career opportunities in the water industry and increase awareness of the state’s unique water resources.

The April 5 Virtual Kick-Off will include both live and pre-recorded testimonials, as well as interactive events. Information regarding the Arizona Water Professionals Appreciation Week celebration can be found at arizonawaterprofessionals.com

The Kick-Off program includes a replay of readings at the Arizona Legislature of House and Senate Proclamations honoring the state’s water professionals. 

The Proclamations decree April 5-11 as the week that Arizonans will honor the hard work of professionals in the water industry.

Sen. Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita) will read the Senate Proclamation from the Arizona Senate floor shortly after 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 1. State Rep. Andres Cano (D-Tucson) is scheduled to present the House Proclamation to members on Thursday morning. Both Senate and House readings will be recorded and archived on the Arizona Legislature website (azleg.gov) under the Arizona Capitol Television tab.

In part, the proclamations invited lawmakers to “extend sincere gratitude and appreciation to the water professionals who are on the front line of delivering Arizona’s safe and reliable water…”

All Arizona water professionals are invited to be recognized at 4 p.m. on Monday, April 5 at the Virtual Kick-Off (arizonawaterprofessionals.com) to participate in interactive questions and a raffle. Professionals also have the opportunity to receive a free lapel pin. The event also will include a recording of a reading of the Proclamation by Arizona water professionals.

See also:

For further information, contact Shauna Evans, Water Resources Public Information Officer, at smevans@azwater.gov or Doug MacEachern, Water Resources Communications Administrator at dmaceachern@azwater.gov

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Joint statement from ADWR & CAP on results of the April 24 Month Study

Today the Bureau of Reclamation released its April 24-Month Study, which anticipates conditions on the Colorado River system for the next two years.  The study, while significant, is not a surprise.  It reflects the impacts of the dry and warm conditions across the Colorado River Basin this year, as well as the effects of a prolonged drought that has impacted the Colorado River water supply.  

The results continue to show a very high likelihood of Tier 1 reductions in 2022 and 2023, as well as an increasing risk of Tier 2 conditions in the near future.  We are prepared for these conditions, thanks in large part to Arizona’s unique collaborative efforts among water leaders including tribes, cities, agriculture, industry and environmental organizations that developed innovative conservation and mitigation programs as part of the implementation of the Drought Contingency Plan.  

The DCP was approved by the Arizona Legislature and signed by Governor Ducey in early 2019 and almost immediately demonstrated its value. Its implementation offset potentially deeper cuts in Arizona’s Colorado River allocation beyond the 192,000 acre-feet that the State annually has stored in Lake Mead for several years.

We will outline the details of those efforts at a joint public briefing on April 29. Arizona water leaders are continuing to work together within Arizona and with partners across the Colorado River basin to develop new approaches to protect and sustain our Colorado River water supply now and into the future.

On the frontlines with ADWR during National Groundwater Awareness Week

Before ADWR Field Services can conduct their examinations of the current condition and depth of wells drilled in Arizona, all the data about the wells themselves must be compiled and organized by the Department’s Groundwater Permitting and Wells division. That enormous task of compiling and organizing data on Arizona’s estimated 200,000 wells is managed by Stella Murillo, who spoke about her division’s duties during National Groundwater Awareness Week.

On the frontlines with ADWR during National Groundwater Awareness Week

More than perhaps any other state agency, the Arizona Department of Water Resources is committed to the protection of our State’s groundwater resources. We are a creation of one of the most far-sighted laws in the nation created in defense of its groundwater — the Arizona Groundwater Management Act of 1980 — and we take that mission to defend Arizona’s water resources seriously. No agency is more… aware of the importance of groundwater than ADWR.
In this podcast recognizing National Groundwater Awareness Week, we have asked an ADWR employee on the front lines of groundwater management about his duties, and about what those tasks mean to him. Scott Stuk is head of ADWR’s basic-data group in the Field Services Division. Scott took a few moments during Groundwater Awareness Week to talk about what he does for a living… and what he believes it means to Arizona.

Arizona Department of Water Resources field hydrologists conducting “basin sweep” to collect water level measurements in the Dripping Spring Wash, Aravaipa Canyon, Donnelly Wash and Lower San Pedro Basins

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         March 11, 2021

Arizona Department of Water Resources field hydrologists conducting “basin sweep” to collect water level measurements in the Dripping Spring Wash, Aravaipa Canyon, Donnelly Wash and Lower San Pedro Basins

PHOENIX – Beginning the week of March 8, 2021, and continuing for several months, Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) field services staff will be making an extensive effort to measure water levels in wells in the Dripping Spring Wash, Aravaipa Canyon, Donnelly Wash and Lower San Pedro Basins.  ADWR staff will attempt to measure water levels at hundreds of wells in these groundwater basins.  This survey of wells – or basin “sweep,” as it is known — will be the first such basin survey since 2006 for the Lower San Pedro Basin and since 1996 for Dripping Spring Wash, Aravaipa Canyon, and Donnelly Wash Basins. The data collected will be analyzed and used to obtain a comprehensive overview of the groundwater conditions, as well as to support scientific and water management planning efforts. Data collected will be used for several purposes, including:

  • Analysis of water-level trends
  • Groundwater modeling
  • Water-level change maps
  • Hydrologic reports
  • Water resource planning and management.

This basin sweep covers an area generally in the southeastern portion of the state and extends east of Florence and Tucson, west of Safford, north of Benson and south of Globe-Miami. 

For more information regarding the planned basin sweep, see ADWR Public Information Officer Shauna Evans at smevans@azwater.gov or (602) 771-8079. Details about the nature of basin sweeps and groundwater modeling can be found here.

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David Snider, long-time Pinal County leader on water issues, unexpectedly passes away

David Snider

David Snider, whose work on water issues for his constituents in Pinal County earned him the respect and admiration of water-community leaders throughout the state, passed away early January 22 following emergency surgery.

A member of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors for two terms, Mr. Snider also was a long-standing member of the Pinal Active Management Area Groundwater Users Advisory Council.

Groundwater user advisory councils were created as part of the landmark 1980 Groundwater Management Act. There are five such councils statewide – one in each of Arizona’s five Active Management Areas.

As gubernatorial appointees to the Pinal AMA council, Mr. Snider and his colleagues on the five-member council provided advice and recommendations on the groundwater management programs and policies within the AMA. Appointed to the GUAC in 2006, Mr. Snider during that time served as both vice-chair and chair of the council.

Mr. Snider was a long-standing member of the Pinal Active Management Area Groundwater Users Advisory Council.

Mr. Snider’s involvement in Pinal-area water issues was extensive.

He served for a time on the Local Drought Impact Group in Pinal County. LDIGs are county-level groups that coordinate drought public awareness, provide impact assessment information to local and state leaders, and implement and initiate local mitigation and response options.

In addition, he also served on the Pinal County Water Augmentation Authority, a group dedicated to supporting the development of responsible, collaborative, and sustainable water planning and management in the Pinal AMA.

Mr. Snider’s dedication to his Pinal County community extended well beyond his work on water-related issues.

The City of Casa Grande library director for 26 years, also served for many years on the Casa Grande Elementary School District Governing Board in addition to his service as a county supervisor.
A fuller depiction of Mr. Snider’s community leadership can be found here

Press Release: Arizona Department of Water Resources field hydrologists conducting “basin sweep” to collect water level measurements in the Willcox, Douglas, San Bernardino Valley and San Simon basins

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PRESS RELEASE

Arizona Department of Water Resources field hydrologists conducting “basin sweep” to collect water level measurements in the Willcox, Douglas, San Bernardino Valley and San Simon basins

Phoenix – Beginning the week of January 4, 2021, and continuing for several months, Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) field services staff will be making an extensive effort to measure water levels in wells in the Willcox, Douglas, San Bernardino Valley and San Simon basins. 

ADWR staff will attempt to measure water levels at hundreds of wells in these groundwater basins.  This survey of wells – or basin “sweep,” as it is known — will be the first such basin survey of the area since 2015. The data collected will be analyzed and used to obtain a comprehensive overview of the groundwater conditions and to support scientific and water management planning efforts. Uses of the data will include:

  • Analysis of water-level trends
  • Groundwater modeling
  • Water-level change maps
  • Hydrologic reports
  • Water resource planning and management

The general area covered by this basin sweep is the southeastern portion of the state and extends from the U.S. – Mexico border to north of Willcox, Bowie and San Simon. 

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For more information regarding the planned basin sweep, see ADWR Public Information Officer Shauna Evans at smevans@azwater.gov or (602) 771-8079. Details about the nature of basin sweeps and groundwater modeling can be found here.

Press Release: Arizona Water Resources Director recommends approving a Colorado River water transfer to the Town of Queen Creek

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE     CONTACT: Doug MacEachern or Shauna Evans
September 4, 2020                                        PHONE:  602.771. 8507 or 602.771.8079

Arizona Water Resources Director recommends approving a Colorado River water transfer to the Town of Queen Creek

Phoenix – The Arizona Department of Water Resources has recommended that the Secretary of the Interior approve a partial transfer of GSC Farm, LLC’s fourth priority Colorado River water entitlement to the Town of Queen Creek from farmland in the Cibola area of La Paz County.

In a letter dated September 4, 2020, ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke recommended approval of a transfer of 1,078.1 acre-feet per year.  

Director Buschatzke based the decision to approve only a part of GSC’s requested 2,083.1 acre-feet per year on the need to retain water to serve future housing development on the property without negatively impacting other Colorado River users.

“In evaluating this application, as well as any future applications, the Department must weigh many competing factors including the beneficial use of the water after the transfer and any potential impacts on the western Arizona communities who rely on the Colorado River,” said Director Buschatzke.

“In this case a partial transfer allows the Town of Queen Creek to meet objectives in the 1980 Groundwater Management Act while avoiding negative impacts for established agricultural economies and growing urban areas in western Arizona.”

A copy of Director Buschatzke’s letter to the Secretary of the Interior can be found here.

In advance of the decision, ADWR organized a series of four public meetings in Phoenix, Bullhead City, Parker and Yuma. Further, a public comment period was provided that was subsequently extended 30 days and, then, an additional 45 days. 

As part of the robust evaluation process the Department’s policy requires an evaluation of whether the proposed transfer will have “potential negative impacts to the water supplies of other Colorado River entitlement holders.” The Department concluded that there would be no such impacts.

Upon receiving the Director’s recommendation, the Secretary of the Interior will be responsible for making the final decision, including performing any National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) compliance actions.

Drawing on public comments received during the evaluation process, the Department has updated its substantive policy statement governing future transfers to explicitly rule out transfers out of state, and to include additional criteria regarding western Arizona communities. The updated policy statement can be found here.

Background

The Director’s recommendation concludes a 13-month public process.

Arizona statute requires a non-federal Arizona entity such as GSC Farm, LLC seeking to transfer a Colorado River water entitlement to “cooperate, confer with and obtain the advice of the Director” of ADWR. 

ADWR’s Substantive Policy Statement CR10 sets forth the criteria to evaluate a proposed transfer, including potential negative impacts to the water supplies of other Colorado River entitlement holders and other impacts that could occur from the transfer. Those potential impacts to on-river entitlement holders represented a substantial part of testimony provided during the public hearings.

ADWR’s Policy Statement provides that after evaluating a proposed transfer and public comments, “the Director will recommend to the Secretary the appropriate redistribution of mainstream Colorado River water supplies consistent with the policies and laws of the state.”

On August 1, 2019, GSC and Queen Creek submitted a request for consultation to ADWR for a proposed transfer of 2,087.86 acre-feet of fourth priority Colorado River water. Queen Creek is seeking the water to aid in providing resilience and stability for its long-term municipal water needs and to lessen its reliance on pumped groundwater, a primary goal of Arizona’s landmark 1980 Groundwater Management Act.

The 4th Priority entitlement is currently used to irrigate land owned by GSC within the Cibola Valley Irrigation and Drainage District (CVIDD) in La Paz County, south of Blythe, California.

For further information, contact Shauna Evans, Water Resources Public Information Officer, at smevans@azwater.gov or Doug MacEachern, Water Resources Communications Administrator at dmaceachern@azwater.gov

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Statement on the Bureau of Reclamation’s August 24-Month Study

PHOENIX – The United States Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) has released its August 24 Month Study, which projects Colorado River operations for the next two years. The study projects the operating conditions of the Colorado River system, as well as runoff and reservoir conditions. The Upper Basin experienced around average snowpack (107%) this year, and the April-July inflow into Lake Powell came in at 52% of average. The below-average projection was due to extremely hot and dry conditions in the Upper Basin during the spring and summer of 2020. Consistent with the 2007 Interim Guidelines, Lake Powell will operate under an annual release of 8.23 million acre-feet in water year 2021 with a potential of an April adjustment up to 9.0 million acre-feet.

The August 24 Month Study projects Lake Mead’s January 1, 2021 elevation to be 1085.28 feet, putting Lake Mead in a Tier Zero condition for 2021. The Study also projects a Tier Zero condition for Lake Mead in 2022 with the projected January 1, 2022 elevation of 1086.90 feet. Tier Zero conditions require a 192,000 acre-foot reduction in Arizona’s 2.8 million acre-foot allocation. The Lower Colorado River Basin is in Tier Zero for 2020. The August 24 month study projects that the Lower Colorado River Basin will remain in the Tier Zero condition in 2021.

 “This is more evidence that the Drought Contingency Plan that was approved by the Arizona Legislature and signed by Governor Ducey in early 2019 was a success,” said Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

“Its implementation offsets potentially deeper cuts in Arizona’s Colorado River allocation beyond the 192,000 acre-feet that the State annually has stored in Lake Mead for several years.”

These reductions will fall entirely on Central Arizona Project (CAP) supplies, impacting CAP supplies for water banking, replenishment and agricultural users. The Tier Zero reductions will not impact tribal or municipal CAP water users.

While the Tier Zero reductions are significant, they are part of broader efforts being implemented to reduce the near-term risks of deeper reductions to Arizona’s Colorado River supplies. In addition to the Tier Zero reductions to CAP supplies, other programs to conserve and store water are being implemented in Arizona.

These include programs with the Colorado River Indian Tribes, Gila River Indian Community, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD), as well as Reclamation. Including the 192,000 acre-foot allocation reduction, Arizona entities conserved a total of 385,000 acre-feet in Lake Mead in 2020.

The August 24 Month Study shows that in the near term, the programs being implemented in Arizona and across the Colorado River system, along with favorable hydrology, have helped avoid a near-term crisis in the Colorado River system. However, we continue to face significant near-term and long-term risks to Arizona’s Colorado River supplies. We have much more work to do to address our shared risks. ADWR and CAWCD have jointly convened Arizona water stakeholders to address these risks and to prepare for new negotiations regarding the long-term operating rules on the Colorado River.

See also:

ADWR Colorado River Current Conditions:

https://new.azwater.gov/crm/dashboard

Bureau of Reclamation August 24-Month Study: https://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g4000/24mo.pdf

For more information regarding this matter, please contact Doug MacEachern, Communications Administrator at dmaceachern@azwater.gov