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.

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

ARC technical work group meeting to be livestreamed

The initial meeting of the Arizona Reconsultation Committee’s “Modeling and Analysis Work Group” is scheduled for Thursday, July 30, starting at 10 a.m.

The livestream can be accessed here just before the meeting begins.

The Modeling and Analysis Work Group will provide a fact basis to inform ARC discussions. It will examine risks, vulnerabilities and impacts to Arizona’s overall Colorado River supply, on-river priorities and users, and Central Arizona Project priorities and users. The Work Group will consider a broad range of future river conditions.

The Work Group meeting will livestreamed, but not recorded. Non-delegate observers will be afforded an opportunity to provide input.

Press Release: A Statement on the 40th Anniversary of Arizona Groundwater Management Act of 1980

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE     CONTACT: Doug MacEachern or Shauna Evans
June 10, 2020                                                 PHONE:  602.771. 8507 or 602.771.8079

 

A Statement on the 40th Anniversary of  Arizona Groundwater Management Act of 1980

June 10, 2020 – Friday, June 12, marks the 40th anniversary of the Arizona Groundwater Management Act of 1980, the law that changed the trajectory of water use in Arizona.

The 1980 Act was – and remains — the most sweeping state law in the Nation governing groundwater use. In addition to creating a coherent, manageable system for helping wean Arizona’s most populous regions from groundwater use, it enacted the framework for long-term groundwater-use reduction that continues to the present.

“In Arizona, we stand on the shoulders of giants — pragmatic, visionary leaders whose achievements have shown us the way and enabled our high quality of life,” said Governor Doug Ducey.

“Last year, we followed their example by coming together—Republicans and Democrats—to pass Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan. We will continue to be guided by a spirit of collaboration and cooperation as we build on the work of those who came before us and secure Arizona’s water future for generations to come.”

As part of the 1980 Act, the Arizona Department of Water Resources was created to enforce the Act in the regions of the State that would become known as “Active Management Areas.” The Department also was charged with taking responsibility for managing Arizona’s allocation of Colorado River water.

In 1980, Arizona water use was on a path to exceed 10 million acre-feet per year statewide, the majority of it pumped from the ground. Water users and political leaders recognized then that continuing to pump groundwater at such levels in a fast-growing Sun Belt state like Arizona was not sustainable.

“The whole structure was ready to collapse,” recalled former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt in 2016.

The Act addressed this problem in central Arizona by prohibiting the expansion of farmland, requiring an assured 100-year water supply for new residential development, limiting the drilling of new wells, and imposing mandatory conservation requirements. With these measures in place, groundwater depletion in central Arizona slowed dramatically.

“In passing the Groundwater Management Act, the State recognized that overuse of groundwater—a finite supply—threatened the economy and welfare of Arizona and its citizens,” observes former ADWR Director Kathleen Ferris, who served as director of legislative staff working on the project in 1979-1980.

“While more must be done to protect the state’s groundwater, I hate to think of where we’d be now without the Act.”

Ferris and her husband, filmmaker Michael Schiffer, produced a documentary on the creation of the Act – “Groundwater: To enact a law for the common good.”

A central goal of the Act is to conserve the State’s most vital resource, water. It has succeeded at the goal remarkably well.

Since 1957, Arizona’s population has grown nearly 500 percent, to 6.7 million residents as of 2018. Its economy has exploded from a gross domestic income of $13.4 billion in 1957 to about $270 billion in 2017. Yet, despite such dramatic growth, Arizona’s total water use actually declined to 1957 levels following the passage of the Act.

Today, Arizona uses roughly 7 million acre-feet of water per year – nearly the same amount that Arizona water users consumed more than 60 years ago.

Water_Success

Highlights of the Act:

  • The five “active management areas” covered by the Groundwater Management Act include less than a quarter of the state’s land mass, but over 75 percent of its population
  • Developers building in active-management areas must demonstrate an assured water supply lasting at least 100 years for new growth
  • The statutory deadline for reaching “safe yield” – that is, groundwater withdrawal that does not exceed annual replenishment of underground aquifers – is fast approaching: 2025
  • Outside of active-management areas and “non-irrigation areas,” groundwater use in Arizona remains essentially unregulated

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For more information regarding this matter, please contact Doug MacEachern, Communications Administrator at dmaceachern@azwater.gov or Shauna Evans, Public Information Officer at smevans@azwater.gov.

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