It’s Not How Fast You Run, It’s How You Cross The Finish Line

Arizona has worked over the course of several years with the other States in the Colorado River Basin and the United States to develop an interstate Drought Contingency Plan to protect Colorado River supplies. And finally, on May 20, 2019, we were able to cross the finish line and say it’s “done.”

So, while everything is moving forward, we thought we could take a moment to slow down and reflect on how we got to this point.

June 13, 2018 – Reclamation Commissioner Calls For Action On Lake Mead “Contingency” Plans

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In a presentation on May 22 before the board of the nation’s largest irrigation district, the Imperial Irrigation District of southern California, Commissioner Burman urged all seven Colorado River system states – to take action “this year” on drought contingency plans to reduce the risk that Lake Mead may fall below tolerable levels.

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June 21, 2018 – Water Resources & Central Arizona Project Partner For Briefing On Drought Contingency Plan


The Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project co-sponsored a panel to discuss the systemic risks posed by potential shortage, as well as announce the kick off of an Arizona discussion on how to adopt and implement the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.

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July 6, 2018 – Planning For Second Drought Contingency Plan Briefing Underway


The June 28 briefing closed with the announcement that an “Arizona Steering Committee” will be formed to discuss and recommend how to adopt and implement the Drought Contingency Plan in the Lower Basin of the Colorado River system in a way that is acceptable to Arizona water users.

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July 18, 2018 – ADWR, CAP And Bureau Of Reclamation Respond To Questions About Drought Contingency Plan


Demonstrating their commitment to address growing risks to Arizona’s Colorado River supply, Arizona and federal water leaders answered questions from the public for nearly three hours in central Phoenix.

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September 5, 2018 – The DCP Makes CO River Delivery Shortfalls Less Painful, But It Doesn’t Make Them Go Away


Tom Buschatzke, Arizona Department of Water Resources Director, and Ted Cooke, Central Arizona Project General Manager discussed how the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, is designed to keep Lake Mead from further dropping to the most critical elevation levels, at which point Arizona’s Colorado River water users would be facing deep cuts to their water supplies and the river system would be in extreme stress.

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October 17, 2018 – How Will AZDCP Fit Into The Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan?


The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released drafts of the Upper Basin DCP and Lower Basin DCP documents. That gave the first glimpse at what will be included in the interstate agreement amongst the Upper Basin and Lower Basin states.

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December 20, 2018 – Getting To The Finish Line: What’s Next For Colorado River Drought Contingency Planning?


Within Arizona, stakeholders had been working to develop an Implementation Plan, a series of agreements that will govern the way that certain terms of the DCP will be implemented within Arizona once the DCP is effective.

The Implementation Plan was nearly in place. However, we were not yet able to say it was “done.”

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CO River Basin States Submit Drought Plans To Congress; USBR Rescinds Fed. Reg. Notice 


The seven states of the Colorado River Basin system took a huge step forward toward protecting and stabilizing their drought-threatened system on Tuesday, March 19, signing a Letter to Congress encouraging swift and necessary congressional action.

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March 29, 2019 – Colorado River DCP Proposals Get A Positive, Enthusiastic Reception In Congress


Support in Congress for the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans took a big step forward in March when lawmakers on a key House subcommittee expressed bipartisan – and, in many cases, enthusiastic – support for the effort to help stabilize the drought-troubled river system.

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April 12, 2019 – Congress Zips Into Action, Quickly Approving Long-Sought CO River DCP Authorization Act


The proposal to take federal action on behalf of the troubled Colorado River system morphed seemingly overnight into a legislative IndyCar powered by an astonishing level of bipartisan support.

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May 20, 2019 – DCP Signing Ceremony at Hoover Dam


“This is certainly a Day to Remember… it certainly is not the end, but it is a step forward.” – Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources

ADWR completes groundwater flow model update of North Santa Cruz AMA

5.10.2019 Santa_Cruz_River

Photo courtesy of University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center

Arizona Department of Water Resources hydrologists have completed an update  to the North Santa Cruz Active Management Area groundwater flow model, the first such updates since the release of modeling reports on the NSCAMA in 2007 and 2010.

The model is updated to include data for the approximately 14-year period beginning in 2002 through water year 2016. The calibrated, extended model will be used to provide model-simulated estimates of natural recharge and discharge components for the draft Fourth Management Plan for the Santa Cruz AMA.

Overall, the NSCAMA model update did not produce any big surprises or changes in the Department’s interpretation of the hydrology in  the area.

However, the groundwater flow model update did reinforce the importance to the NSCAMA aquifer of “episodic flood pulses” — episodes, usually lasting days or weeks, when runoff from large rainfall events flows into the Santa Cruz River and increases the amount of surface flow, often by orders of magnitude.

Water levels in the Santa Cruz AMA are largely dependent on stream recharge, which varies significantly from year to year in response to streamflow coming down the Santa Cruz River. That recharge mostly occurs as a result of those episodic flood pulses generated by substantial rain events.

The North Santa Cruz AMA aquifer is a narrow, shallow basin that provides less long-term storage capacity than wider, deeper aquifers such as that of the Tucson and Phoenix AMAs. Especially following major rain events, water flows through the aquifer quickly because the soil properties are such that the conductivities are very high.

The model update found that groundwater pumping in the southern Tucson AMA is continuing to impact water levels in the northern Santa Cruz AMA north of the town of Tubac.

From 1997 to 2016, water levels in this area have been steadily dropping – up to 45 feet, using 1997-1998 as the baseline.

The northern portion of the Santa Cruz AMA is simulated as a model separate from the southern portion due to the  distinct hydrologic regimes along the upper and lower reaches of the Santa Cruz River within the AMA.

For further information regarding the model update of the North Santa Cruz AMA, contact Sally Stewart Lee at ADWR.




Governor’s Water Augmentation, Innovation and Conservation Council


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                           CONTACT: Sally Stewart Lee 

Apr. 25, 2019                                                                                        PHONE: 602.771.8530

Governor’s Water Augmentation, Innovation, and Conservation Council Update
Arizona will continue water partnerships after DCP legislation

PHOENIX – In January, following the signing of the historic Drought Contingency Plan for Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey ordered the creation of a new council with a long-term focus on water augmentation, innovation and conservation. The Governor’s Water Augmentation, Innovation and Conservation Council (Council) was created by an Executive Order signed Jan. 31, 2019.

“We aren’t going to wait 40 years to begin the process for Arizona’s next big step to secure our water future,” said Governor Ducey. “We’re going to continue building upon the great work we have done this year so Arizona remains a leader in water management and conservation.”

The Council expands and replaces the original Governor’s Water Augmentation Council (GWAC), formed as part of the Governor’s Water Initiative in 2015. The newly expanded council will investigate water innovation and conservation strategies in addition to water augmentation. The Council will have four committees focused on desalination, finances, long-term water augmentation and recycled water.

The Council held its first meeting on Friday, March 8 at the offices of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR). The Council will meet quarterly with the next meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. June 13. All Council meetings are open to the public.

The members serving on the Council are:
Basilo Aja, Arizona Cattle Feeders Association;
Lisa Atkins, Arizona State Land Department;
David Brown, Brown and Brown Law Offices;
Thomas Buschatzke (Chair), ADWR;
Misael Cabera, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality;
Chris Camacho, Greater Phoenix Economic Council ;
Ted Cooke, Central Arizona Water Conservation District;
Maria Dadgar, Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona;
Ronald Doba, Northern Arizona Municipal Water Users Association;
Sandra Fabritz, Freeport Minerals Co.;
Kathleen Ferris, attorney;

Grady Gammage, Gammage & Burnham;
William Garfield, Arizona Water Company;
Patrick Graham, the Nature Conservancy;
Glenn Hamer, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry;
Spencer Kamps, Home Builders Association of Central Arizona;
Jamie Kelley, Mohave County Water Authority;
John Kmiec, Southern Arizona Water Users Association;
Governor Stephen Roe Lewis, Gila River Indian Community;
Cheryl Lombard, Valley Partnership;
Edward P. Maxwell, Southern Arizona Leadership Council;
Stephen Q. Miller, Pinal County;
Hunter Moore, Gov. Doug Ducey Natural Resources Policy Advisor;
Wade Noble, Noble Law;
Virginia O’Connell, Arizona Water Banking Authority;
Chairman Dennis Patch, Colorado River Indian Tribes;
Sarah Porter, Kyl Center;
Philip Richards, Arizona Public Service;
Dave Roberts, Salt River Project;
Kevin Rogers, Arizona Cotton Growers Association;
Stefanie Smallhouse, Arizona Farm Bureau;
Mark Smith, Yuma Irrigation District;
Craig Sullivan, County Supervisors Association of Arizona;
Warren Tenney, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association;
Timothy Thomure, City of Tucson Water Department;
Philip Townsend, Sunland Chemical Co.;
Christopher Udall, Agribusiness & Water Council;
Jay Whetten, Arizona Cattlemen’s Association;
Rep. Rusty Bowers, Speaker of the House;
Sen. Sine Kerr designee for Sen. Karen Fann, President of the Senate;
Rep. Charlene Fernandez, House Minority Leader; and
Sen. Lisa Otondo, designee for Sen. David Bradley, Senate Minority Leader.
This new Executive Order (2019-02) supersedes and rescinds Executive Order 2015-13 which formed the original GWAC.


Celebration! Is It So Wrong To Revel In Good Water News For A Change?

Is it so wrong to want to revel in good water news a bit?

After enduring more than 19 years of lingering drought in the Southwest and its implications for the Colorado River system, we think not.

This month, Congress has passed, and the President has signed into law, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act, which permits the Secretary of the Interior to sign a DCP agreement with the Seven Basin States.

Considering the very serious potential consequences of Lake Mead water levels falling to critically low levels, that is truly something worthy of celebration. So, too, was the remarkable bipartisanship and leadership on display among the Arizona congressional delegation, which led the DCP effort in in both the House and Senate.

On top of that, hydrology reports both in-state and in the Colorado River system indicate a 2019 winter snowpack that in many cases is well above average.

The implications of the Bureau of Reclamation’s recent April 2019 24-Month Study of projections for the 2020 water year (and, as the name implies, the next 24 months) are especially significant.

The Bureau updates its projections each month, but the April report and the August report are critical in determining how much water will be released from Lake Powell into Lake Mead in the coming year. The elevation levels forecasted to be in each of those reservoirs at the end of each year trigger those releases.

Up until the 2019 snowpack in the Rocky Mountains began seriously building in February, the odds of a first-ever shortage declaration in water deliveries in 2020 were better than even. With every 24-Month Study report from February onward, however, those odds decreased. By the recent April report, the Bureau’s analysts expressed confidence that Lake Mead would likely start 2020 “almost 10 feet above the shortage determination trigger of 1,075 feet.”

As reported by the Bureau, the improved hydrology allows Lake Powell’s operation this year to shift to a “balancing” release of up to 9.0 million acre-feet into Lake Mead.

As Bureau Commissioner Brenda Burman noted, this year’s snowpack “is welcome news.”

Still, she noted, “one good year cannot reverse the effects of nearly two decades of severe drought. Current total Colorado River System storage is approximately 45% of full capacity.”

President signs Colorado DCP Authorization Act, clearing path to finalize historic agreement

President Trump this afternoon signed the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act, the federal legislation that opens the door for the Secretary of the Interior to sign the vital drought plan along with the governor’s representatives of the Seven Basin States.

Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke will sign on behalf of Governor Ducey. Buschatzke himself was authorized to sign the agreement on January 31 by an act of the Arizona Legislature, which the governor promptly signed.

The DCP is an agreement among the Colorado River states to take steps to protect Lake Mead in the event of a shortage declaration. Years in the making, the agreement would help protect Lake Mead water levels from falling into critical depths.

Introduced to Congress in late March, the DCP Authorization Act flew through both the U.S. Senate and House, thanks in no small part to the strong support provided by the Arizona congressional delegation, notably Sen. Martha McSally and Rep. Raul Grijalva, both of whom played key roles.

Within eleven days of its introduction, on April 8, both the House and Senate approved the legislation by acclimation and sent the Act to the President’s desk for his signature.


Colorado River States representatives testify before Senate panel on need for DCP; more testimony scheduled before House panel on Thursday

3.27.2019 Senate Energy and NR Subcomittee hearing
Colorado River advocates prepare to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power. From left: Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman; Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke; John Entsminger, General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority; and, Patrick Tyrrell, Wyoming State Engineer

Members of the seven-state Colorado River coalition told a panel of U.S. senators today that the river system serving 40 million people in the Southwest and Mexico is threatened seriously by extended drought and asked that Congress back their unified plan for addressing potential delivery shortfalls.

Joined by Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, the Colorado River system representatives — including Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke — testified Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power.

Commissioner Burman testified first. She outlined the drought issues facing their region and described for the lawmakers the steps taken jointly in recent years in the U.S. by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and the seven states to address those issues.

In an extended written statement, Commissioner Burman related how, in December 2018, she “called on all seven Basin States and key water districts in the Lower Basin to complete their work on finalizing the Drought Contingency Plans by the end of 2018.”

That work was effectively completed on March 19, when the representatives of all seven Colorado River States signed the Drought Contingency Plans at the ADWR offices in Phoenix and transmitted for consideration by Congress. Buschatzke signed the DCP agreement on behalf of Arizona.

Director Buschatzke provided the Senate panel with details about the creation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or LBDCP (the Colorado River system is divided into two “basins;” the Upper Basin states including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming and the Lower Basin including Arizona, Nevada and California).

3.27.2019 Buschatzke at Senate hearing

Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke providing testimony before the Senate subcommittee

“The LBDCP and the drought contingency plans crafted by the Upper Basin States are the latest examples of the States working together with the Bureau of Reclamation to achieve agreed-upon solutions to issues facing the States regarding the Colorado River,” said Director Buschatzke.

Buschatzke also described the involvement of the Republic of Mexico in the effort to protect Lake Mead from falling to critical levels. In September 2017, the U.S. and Mexico signed an update, known as Minute 323, to the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty, assuring binational cooperation in managing a more stable Colorado River system.

That agreement, said Buschatzke, “provides additional benefit to the actions of the Seven Basin States.”

Also testifying alongside Commissioner Burman and Director Buschatzke were John Entsminger, General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Patrick Tyrrell, Wyoming State Engineer.

3.27.2019 Buschatzke, Entsminger and Tyrrell at Senate hearing

Buschatzke, Entsminger and Tyrrell, following Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power

Chaired by Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, the Senate panelists present included Subcommittee Ranking Member Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Sen John Barrasso of Wyoming and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado.

“Now that the states have finished their work, it’s time for Congress to take it across the finish line,” said Sen. McSally, who added that she wished “to get this (legislation) dropped as soon as possible and signed into law.”

Links to the written testimony of the witnesses can be found here.

On Thursday, March 28, Director Buschatzke is again scheduled to provide congressional testimony, this time before the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva.

Bureau Commissioner Burman and the ADWR Director will be joined again by Entsminger and Tyrrell, as well as by representatives from the other Colorado River states, including Peter Nelson of California, James Eklund of Colorado, John D’Antonio, Jr., of New Mexico and Eric Millis of Utah.

The Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee hearing is scheduled at 10 a.m. EDT. (7 a.m. Arizona time) on Thursday. The hearing can be viewed live here.




Effort to win Congressional support for the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans begins in earnest on Wednesday

DCP Signing-19
Signers of the March 19 Letter to Congress urging federal support for the Drought Contingency Plans, with Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. From left: Peter Nelson, California; John Entsminger, Nevada; James Eklund, Colorado; Tom Buschatzke, Arizona; Commissioner Burman; John D’Antonio, Jr., New Mexico; Norm Johnson, Utah; and, Pat Tyrrell, Wyoming. Buschatzke, Entsminger and Tyrrell will join the Commissioner before the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power on March 27.

Advocates for the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans will begin making their case to Congress on Wednesday, March 27, when four officials deeply involved in the effort to stabilize the system are scheduled to address the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power.

The witness panel includes Brenda Burman, Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources; John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority; and, Patrick Tyrrell, State Engineer for the State of Wyoming.

Like other witnesses, ADWR Director Buschatzke will provide oral and written testimony to the panel about the DCP.

Chaired by Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, the subcommittee will examine the drought plans of the Upper and Lower Basins of the river system. Before the plans can be finalized, Congress must first authorize the Department of the Interior to implement them.

Set to convene at 2:30 p.m. EDT (11:30 a.m. Arizona time), The hearing will be webcast live on the committee’s website, and an archived video will be available shortly after the hearing is complete.

Witness testimony will be available on the website at the start of the hearing.


Drought Contingency Plan focus now turns to Congress: ADWR Director to testify at U.S. House and Senate

DCP Signing-19
Signatories to the Letter to Congress, gathered for a post-signing photo with Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman (left to right): Peter Nelson of California; John J. Entsminger of Nevada; L. James Eklund of Colorado; Tom Buschatzke of Arizona; ; John R. D’Antonio, Jr. of New Mexico; Norm Johnson of Utah; and, Pat Tyrrell of Wyoming

Following the agreement reached on Tuesday to jointly pursue completion of their Drought Contingency Plans, the seven Colorado River Basin states now turn attention to Washington, D.C., where congressional action is necessary to complete the plans.

That congressional action commences next week.

On Tuesday, March 19, representatives of the seven States, including Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke, signed a Letter to Members of Congress, requesting that they support the Drought Contingency Plans. Congress first must approve legislation directing the Secretary of Interior to sign and implement the plans.

With that mission in mind, Director Buschatzke will testify next week before relevant subcommittees in the both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Director has been asked to testify regarding the drought plans on Wednesday, March 27, before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water & Power.

In addition to  Director Buschatzke, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman; John Entsminger, the general manager for Southern Nevada Water Authority; and, Pat Tyrrell, the Wyoming state engineer, are scheduled to testify before the subcommittee, which is chaired by Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona.

On Thursday, March 28, Buschatzke is scheduled to testify on the DCP before the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. The Director will provide lawmakers five minutes of oral testimony and will submit a lengthier statement in writing.

Water, Oceans, and Wildlife is a subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee. Arizona Rep. Raul M.  Grijalva chairs the Committee.




PRESS RELEASE: ADWR releases Preliminary Hydrographic Survey Report for Navajo Reservation

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                    CONTACT: Sally Stewart Lee

March 8, 2019                                                                                               PHONE: 602.771.8530

ADWR releases Preliminary Hydrographic Survey Report for Navajo Reservation

PHOENIX – On March 8, 2019, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) is releasing the Preliminary Hydrographic Survey Report for the Navajo Reservation (Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR) for inspection and comment. The Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR was prepared by ADWR as part of the Little Colorado River General Stream Adjudication (LCR Adjudication), which is pending before the Apache County Superior Court.

The purpose of the Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR is to provide the Navajo Nation, the United States and interested parties with the opportunity to inspect the information that ADWR gathered pertaining to water right claims filed by the Navajo Nation and by the United States (on behalf of the Navajo Nation), and to file comments with ADWR.

In accordance with A.R.S. § 45-256(H), the ADWR Director gives notice that the comment period on the Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR shall extend until June 7, 2019. All comments must be in writing and received by ADWR on or before June 7, 2019 at the following address:


The Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR is being made available for downloading from ADWR’s website at  In addition, an electronic version of the N Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR is being made available for purchase for $20.00.  Special arrangements may be made to purchase a hard copy of all or selected portions of the Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR, including appendices.  Electronic and hard copies may be purchased by calling (602) 771-8634 or (866) 246-1414 (toll free).

2019 Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR

For additional information, please contact:


In addition, the Preliminary Navajo Reservation HSR is available for inspection at the following locations: