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Water agencies announce partnership to invest $200 million in conservation efforts to bolster Colorado River’s Lake Mead, under 500+ plan

Las Vegas, Nevada (December 15, 2021) – LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Water agencies across Arizona, California and Nevada, together with the Department of the Interior, today announced a historic effort to invest up to $200 million in projects over the next two years to keep the Colorado River’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, from dropping to critically low levels.

The agreement, known as the 500+ Plan, aims to add 500,000 acre-feet of additional water to Lake Mead in both 2022 and 2023 by facilitating actions to conserve water across the Lower Colorado River Basin. The additional water – enough water to serve about 1.5 million households a year – would add about 16 feet total to the reservoir’s level, which continues to reach record low levels.

“Two decades of drought on the Colorado River is taking a toll across the Basin and on Lake Mead. By working together we’ve staved off these historic low levels for years, thanks to collaboration and conservation in the Lower Basin. But we need even more action, and we need it now,” said Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

In addition to Reclamation, the 500+ Plan includes the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Project, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding signed today during the Colorado River Water Users Association’s annual conference, ADWR commits up to $40 million to the initiative over two years, with CAP, Metropolitan and SNWA each contributing up to $20 million. The federal government plans to match those commitments, for a total funding pool of $200 million.

Some of the specific conservation actions and programs that will be implemented through the 500+ Plan have already begun, while others are still being identified. The MOU includes conservation efforts in both urban and agricultural communities, such as funding crop fallowing on farms to save water, including the recent approval of a short-term agricultural land fallowing program in California, or urban conservation to reduce diversions from Lake Mead.

In 2019, Arizona, Nevada and California signed the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan and agreed to contribute water to Lake Mead as it reached certain levels, to keep it from dropping even further and reaching critically low levels. The DCP also included a provision that if modeling indicates a possibility of the reservoir reaching an elevation of 1,030 feet, action would be required.

“Our work on the 2019 DCP took more than five years to complete. This commitment to work together to stabilize Lake Mead came together in a matter of a few months,” said Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke. “That alone is a powerful testament to the commitment of the Lower Basin States to work together with our partners at Reclamation to protect this vital river system.”

“These past months have presented tremendous challenges with the additional pressure of the need to work quickly. But rather than drive us apart, this difficult situation has further strengthened our relationships. It’s amazing that work of this magnitude, sensitivity and expense could come together in this amount of time,” said Central Arizona Project General Manager Ted Cooke.

“We had hoped the contributions made under the DCP would be enough to stabilize Lake Mead while we seek longer-term solutions to the challenges on the Colorado River. But they aren’t, which is why we are moving forward with the 500+ Plan,” said Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil.

“It is imperative that all users on the Colorado River take action now to preserve this critical resource that we all depend upon,” said SNWA General Manager John Entsminger. “We hope as this initiative is developed, that along with our other many conservation efforts, it will provide strong support for Lake Mead water levels.”

The plan marks the latest collaborative effort by the Lower Basin states in partnership with Reclamation to bring sustainability to the Colorado River, which has been in a historic drought since 2000.

The plan also highlights the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s historic $8.3 billion investment in water infrastructure and will help minimize the impacts of drought, and develop a long-term plan to facilitate conservation and economic growth. The BID’s investments will fund water efficiency and recycling programs, rural water projects, WaterSMART grants and dam safety to ensure that irrigators, Tribes and adjoining communities receive adequate assistance and support.

BUREAU OF RECLAMATION
Patti Aaron
paaron@usbr.gov
702-293-8189
ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES
Shauna Evans
smevans@azwater.gov
602-771-8079
SOUTHERN NEVADA WATER AUTHORITY
Bronson Mack
bronson.mack@lvvwd.com 702-249-5518
CENTRAL ARIZONA PROJECT
DeEtte Person
dperson@cap-az.com
623-869-2597
METROPOLITAN WATER DISTRICT
Rebecca Kimitch
rkimitch@mwdh2o.com
202-821-5253
 
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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.

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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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Arizona Department of Water Resources field hydrologists conducting “basin sweep” to collect water level measurements in the Western Planning Area: Butler Valley, Harquahala, McMullen Valley, Ranegras Plain, and Tiger Wash Basins

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         January 5, 2022

Arizona Department of Water Resources field hydrologists conducting “basin sweep” to collect water level measurements in the Western Planning Area: Butler Valley, Harquahala, McMullen Valley, Ranegras Plain, and Tiger Wash Basins

PHOENIX – Beginning the week of January 1st, 2022, and scheduled to continue for multiple months, Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) field services staff will be making an extensive effort to measure water levels in wells in the Western Planning Area (WPA): Butler Valley, Harquahala, McMullen Valley, Ranegras Plain, and Tiger Wash Basins.  ADWR’s objective is to measure water levels at hundreds of wells in these groundwater basins. This survey of wells – or basin “sweep,” as it is known – was last conducted in winter 2016 for the WPA.  The Harquahala Irrigation Non-Expansion Area (INA) will also be included in the basin sweep as it is contained within the Harquahala Basin. 

The data collected will be analyzed and used to obtain a comprehensive overview of the groundwater conditions and used 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 western to southwestern portion of the State and extends east of Plomosa and Kofa Mountains, west of Big Horn, Vulture and Harquahala Mountains, north of Eagle Tail Mountains and south of Bouse Hills, Buckskin and Harcuvar Mountains. 

For more information regarding this matter, please contact 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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Comment Period for Arizona Water Protection Fund Fiscal Year 2022 Grant Applications Now Open

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 15, 2021

Press Release

CONTACT: Shauna Evans

(602) 771-8079

smevans@azwater.gov

Comment Period for Arizona Water Protection Fund Fiscal Year 2022 Grant Applications Now Open

PHOENIX – The Arizona Water Protection Fund* has received grant applications for its fiscal year 2022 funding cycle. 

Grant applications are now available for public review at the Arizona Water Protection Fund website at  www.azwpf.gov/grant-information/2022

Written comments regarding grant applications may be submitted during the 45-day public comment period, which begins September 15, 2021 and ends October 29, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.  Written public comments must be received no later than 5:00 p.m., October 29, 2021.  Written comments can be mailed, sent via email, or sent by fax.  If mailed, written comments must be postmarked no later than October 29, 2021.  Please include application numbers and titles.

The Arizona Water Protection Fund supports projects that develop or implement on the ground measures that directly maintain, enhance and restore Arizona’s river and riparian resources.

Mailing AddressFaxEmail
Arizona Water Protection Fund
Arizona Department of Water Resources
Attn: Reuben Teran
P.O. Box 36020
Phoenix, Arizona 85067
(602) 771-8687rteran@azwater.gov

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* The Arizona Water Protection Fund supports projects that develop or implement on the ground measures that directly maintain, enhance and restore Arizona’s river and riparian resources

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Arizona heads into Tier 1 Colorado River Shortage for 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AUGUST 16, 2021

ADWR and CAP joint statement in response to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s first-ever declaration of a Colorado River Shortage

Phoenix, Arizona (August 16, 2021) – The Colorado River Basin continues to experience drought and the impacts of hotter and drier conditions. Based on the Jan. 1 projected level of Lake Mead at 1,065.85 feet above sea level, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior has declared the first-ever Tier 1 shortage for Colorado River operations in 2022.

This Tier 1 shortage will result in a substantial cut to Arizona’s share of the Colorado River – about 30% of Central Arizona Project’s normal supply; nearly 18% of Arizona’s total Colorado River supply; and less than 8% of Arizona’s total water use. Nearly all the reductions within Arizona will be borne by Central Arizona Project (CAP) water users. In 2022, reductions will be determined by Arizona’s priority system – the result will be less available Colorado River water for central Arizona agricultural users.

While Arizona will take the required mandatory reductions under a Tier 1 shortage, the reductions to CAP water users will be partially mitigated by resources that have been set aside in advance for this purpose.

“The 2019 Drought Contingency Plan put in place agreements and Arizona water users have taken collective action to mitigate reduced CAP water for affected municipalities, tribes and CAP agriculture,” said Ted Cooke, general manager, Central Arizona Project. “These DCP near-term actions will provide relief from reductions that will occur in 2022 as a result of a Tier 1 shortage.”

Given the recent intensification of the drought, deeper levels of shortage are likely in the next few years. As impacts of drought persist, additional reductions to CAP water users are likely to occur pursuant to the DCP. Such reductions would include impacts to CAP water currently available to some central Arizona municipalities and tribes.

The near-record low runoff in the Colorado River in 2021 significantly reduced storage in Lake Powell. The reduction in storage, combined with projections for future months, has triggered provisions of the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan designed to protect critical elevations in Lake Powell and Lake Mead through additional collective actions.

“ADWR and CAP are working collaboratively with Arizona stakeholders and the Basin States to deploy more adaptive measures consistent with the Drought Contingency Plan and associated agreements,” said Tom Buschatzke, director, Arizona Department of Water Resources. “At the same time, ADWR and CAP will continue to work with partners within Arizona and across the Basin to develop and implement longer-term solutions to the shared risks we all face on the Colorado River now and into the future.”

Buschatzke continued, “We in Arizona have acted and will continue to act to protect the water resources of our state and of the Colorado River system overall.”

# # #

About Arizona Department of Water Resources

The Arizona Department of Water Resources safeguards the health, safety and economic welfare of the public by protecting, conserving and enhancing Arizona’s water supplies in a bold, thoughtful and innovative manner. new.azwater.gov

About Central Arizona Project Central

Arizona Project (CAP) is Arizona’s single largest resource for renewable water supplies. CAP is designed to bring water from the Colorado River to Central and Southern Arizona every year. More than 80% of the state’s population live in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties, where CAP water is delivered. It is a 336-mile long system of aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines. CentralArizonaProject.com

Check out ADWR & CAP’s Colorado River Shortage Fact Sheet

Arizona Water Protection Fund Accepting Applications for Fiscal Year 2022 Grant Cycle

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 9, 2021

Press Release

CONTACT: Shauna Evans

(602) 771-8079

smevans@azwater.gov

Arizona Water Protection Fund Accepting Applications for Fiscal Year 2022 Grant Cycle

PHOENIX- The Arizona Water Protection Fund (AWPF) supports projects that develop or implement on the ground measures that directly maintain, enhance and restore Arizona’s river and riparian resources.

The AWPF Commission will be accepting applications for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 grant cycle, and will award grants under three categories: capital projects, research, and water conservation. The deadline to submit applications is September 3, 2021 at 5:00pm. Applications will only be accepted electronically via the eCivis Grants Management System (https://portal.ecivis.com/#/login).  The grant cycle schedule, grant application manual, and electronic forms are available on the AWPF website at: www.azwpf.gov.

AWPF staff will be hosting one grant application workshop:

LocationDateTime
Online Webinar* July 28, 2021 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Webinar Information
Link: https://azwater.webex.com/azwater/j.php?MTID=mc6d5d4e8252ee5b8dde577cab998639a
Webinar Number (Access Code): 145 058 5617
Webinar Password: dTfvPJ85J5J
Join by Phone: 1-415-655-0001 US Toll (Access Code is same as above)

*Staff will be providing the grant application workshop via online webinar only.  Please contact the Arizona Water Protection Fund at 602-771-8528 or rteran@azwater.gov with any questions.

The Arizona Legislature established the AWPF in 1994 (A.R.S. § 45-2101, et seq.). The Arizona Department of Water Resources provides administrative, technical, and legal support to the AWPF Commission. The legislation establishing the AWPF provides that it is the declared policy of the Legislature to provide for a coordinated effort between state funding and locally led solutions for the restoration and conservation of the water resources of the state. A.R.S. § 45-2101(A). The primary purpose of the AWPF is to provide monies through a competitive public grant process for implementation of measures to protect water of sufficient quality and quantity to maintain, enhance, and restore rivers and streams and associated riparian resources consistent with existing water law and water rights, and measures to increase water availability. A.R.S. § 45-2101(B).

For additional information, please contact Reuben Teran at rteran@azwater.gov.

State Climatologist Nancy Selover to Participate in Final Drought Declaration Panel

After 14 years as Arizona’s top analyst of weather data, State Climatologist Nancy Selover has announced her retirement. Effectively if not literally, she has weathered the stormy challenges of being the top weather-and-climate expert in a state that has been dogged by persistent drought throughout her time in office.

A research professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University, Selover also will retire from her ASU duties, which involve research into urban heat-island effects, microclimate and evaporation.

Her role as State Climatologist, however, is the one that has put her most prominently in the public eye. Appointed in 2007 by then-Governor Janet Napolitano, Dr. Selover has spent countless hours in public forums providing climate data and information about Arizona weather issues to the general public, government agencies, private industry and other researchers.

She has said that her greatest pleasure in the job has been her presentations to schools and community groups, discussing climate and weather topics that impact Arizona and, in her words, “communicating climate science to stakeholders in plain vanilla.”

On Tuesday, May 11 at 10 a.m., Dr. Selover will participate in her final meeting with the Drought Interagency Coordinating Group. At that meeting, the ICG will be asked to make a recommendation to Governor Doug Ducey about whether to maintain the official Drought Declarations that are currently in place.

Information about the May 11 ICG meeting may be found on the Arizona Department of Water Resources website at new.azwater.gov/drought

The following is a recording of a farewell discussion between ADWR’s Arizona Water News and Dr. Selover.

ADWR & CAP TO HOST ONLINE BRIEFING OF COLORADO RIVER CONDITIONS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 23, 2021

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project have scheduled a joint virtual public briefing for April 29 at 9 a.m. regarding the potential 2022 “Tier 1” shortage condition on the Colorado River system.

The briefing will include presentations regarding the hydrological and climate-related conditions that have contributed to the announcement of a likely shortage declaration for 2022, as well as the on-going efforts to keep Lake Mead from descending to unstable levels.

FOR THE PUBLIC BRIEFING

WHAT: A Joint Colorado River Shortage Preparedness Briefing

WHEN: Thursday, April 29, 9 a.m.

HOW: Will be livestreamed here on the day of the event

For further information, contact DeEtte Person of CAP at 480-620-7685 (dperson@cap-az.com) or Shauna Evans of ADWR at 602-771-8079 (smevans@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.