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.
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.
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.