“System-use agreement” between Central Arizona Project and the federal Bureau of Reclamation a major milestone for vital water-delivery system
Central Arizona Project and the federal Bureau of Reclamation reached an historic agreement on Thursday that allows for “new and innovative” uses of the CAP’s 336-mile system of canals, including transporting new water supplies, exchanging supplies among users and efficiently accessing water stored underground by the Arizona Water Banking Authority and others.
The agreement creates a legal framework for a variety of water supplies to be moved through the system, including many dedicated to addressing possible future shortfalls in Arizona’s Colorado River water allocations.
“It allows for flexibility in managing our Colorado River water supplies,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
Until now, so-called “non-CAP water” – that is, water controlled by users other than the Central Arizona Project – flowed through the elaborate delivery system only on an ad hoc basis. In 2014, for example, the cities of Phoenix and Tucson reached an agreement allowing Phoenix to store some of its unused Colorado River allocation in Tucson-area aquifers.
Thursday’s agreement provides a legal framework for such water exchanges, thus opening the door for further innovation, as well as for future agreements on water quality and financial issues.
CAP General Manager Ted Cooke also noted the additional flexibility that the agreement provides his agency. Cooke thanked the agencies involved in helping make it happen for their collaborative efforts:
“This agreement provides us with the flexibility for cost-effective recovery of stored water, including more than four million acre-feet of CAP water stored in the aquifers of central and southern Arizona,” said Cooke.
“I would like to thank the negotiators from the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation, along with the significant contributions from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Arizona Water Banking Authority.”
Water Resources Director Buschatzke joined Cooke in extending thanks to the Arizona congressional delegation – especially noting the efforts of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake – for helping make the system use agreement happen.
“Our role was to support efforts to complete the system use agreement for the benefit of Arizona water users,” added Buschatzke.
“We sought to support the maximum flexibility of this important asset.”
Gov. Doug Ducey expressed thanks to former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for her efforts in support of the system-use agreement.
The CAP canal system was built by the federal Bureau of Reclamation for the state of Arizona and is managed and operated by the Central Arizona Project.
The deal is especially valuable to the Water Bank, which pays to bring Colorado River water through the CAP system into central and southern Arizona. The Water Bank stores that water in underground aquifers, or directly recharges it into underground storage facilities. It also arranges for water deliveries to irrigation districts, which use the water in lieu of mined groundwater.
Water Bank officials helped review the agreement.
The deal creates a legal framework allowing the Water Bank to use the CAP system to make recovered water available during potential periods of shortage of Colorado River water deliveries to Arizona. Until now, the Water Bank’s capacity to make use of the water it stores has been extremely limited.
(A Central Arizona Project statement released Thursday contributed to this blog post)