Gila River Indian Community, State Of Arizona, City Of Phoenix, Walton Family Foundation Announce Cooperative Water Conservation Partnership

Agreement to work together on groundwater storage, water conservation efforts will help Lake Mead water level, drought relief strategies statewide


SACATON, AZ. – To continue drought relief efforts to address falling elevation in Lake Mead, the Gila River Indian Community, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the City of Phoenix and the Walton Family Foundation today announced the signing of a cooperative agreement to continue efforts to conserve water that will serve as a foundation to secure water supplies for Arizona’s more than 6 million residents and businesses.

“This agreement is an important step to continue cooperative efforts to help slow the falling elevations at Lake Mead,” said Gila River Governor Stephen R. Lewis.  “Having the largest entitlement of Colorado River water delivered through the CAP system, the Community recognizes that it can make its supply available in times of need, and we consider this agreement a continuation of our commitments made to United States in January that will allow Arizona parties to continue their negotiations and efforts to conclude a comprehensive plan, commonly called the Drought Contingency Plan Plus or DCP Plus, to address the severe drought on the Colorado River.”

“Solving our most difficult long-term water challenges like the over-allocation of Colorado River water will require innovation and collaboration,” said Mayor Greg Stanton. “Today we are embarking on a creative new way for the Gila River Indian Community, Phoenix, and others to help build drought resiliency together to protect the Colorado and Lake Mead for the long run.”

Thomas Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) stated, “This agreement will allow for the creation of tools that will be effective in protecting Lake Mead.   Those tools will be enduring and inclusive, allowing for participation by a broad group of Arizona water entitlement holders and other constituencies.”

The agreement establishes a long-term partnership between tribal, federal, state and local leaders and a philanthropic foundation with a lengthy, laudable history of supporting binational and multi-state water agreements in the Lower Basin of the Colorado River. The Foundation has worked diligently to protect the viability of Lake Mead and the overall health of the Colorado River system.

“Our goal is the long-term sustainability of the Colorado River Basin, and solutions will take cooperation, collaboration, and creativity,” said Ted Kowalski, who leads the Colorado River initiative for the Walton Family Foundation. “We are proud to partner with these forward-thinking federal, state, tribal and local interests. We welcome additional partners interested in supporting the long-term health of the Colorado River and the farmers, ranchers and communities who depend on it.”

One way the Community is making CAP water supplies available for conservation is to expand its groundwater capacity by developing underground storage facilities.  Representatives from the State of Arizona, City of Phoenix and the Walton Family Foundation toured the Community’s Olberg Dam Underground Storage Facility (ODUSF), a riparian aquifer recharge project that restores portions of the Gila River on the Community’s reservation and recharges the Community’s aquifer.  Located on the Gila River near Sacaton, AZ the ODUSF has restored approximately three miles of Gila River riparian ecosystem on the Reservation.

“The Community plans to develop a number of these storage facilities that both bring back the Gila River and ensures that as the Community relies more on groundwater, this water is replenished and we can maintain a healthy aquifer,” said Governor Lewis.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources has been instrumental in helping the Community develop the ODUSF.  “Having worked with ADWR for the last two years on a pilot program at the Olberg Dam Underground Storage Facility site, the Community has done its due diligence and demonstrated that they can successfully recharge CAP water at this site,” said Mr. Buschatzke.  “This pilot program has provided valuable information as the Community develops a permanent recharge program here and pursues recharge at other sites.”