Arizona water coalition declares support for “Implementation Plan” to complete state’s plan for Colorado River delivery shortfalls

The Water for Arizona Coalition, a group comprising Arizonans who support policies and innovative practices to ensure a reliable water supply to meet the state’s needs, has released a statement  of support for the “Implementation Plan” that was unveiled at the November 29 Steering Committee meeting at Central Arizona Project headquarters.

The coalition singled out three tenets of the Implementation Plan that its members consider key:

  • Governor Ducey’s pledge to allocate $30 million in funding for system conservation as a part of the implementation of DCP
  • The readiness of the Walton Family Foundation and Water Funders Initiative to work in partnership with public funders and other stakeholders to fill the $8 million funding gap for system conservation in the Lower Basin
  • The benefits of the proposed mitigation for the Colorado River system and water levels in Lake Mead

The coalition’s complete statement:

11.30.2018 Water for Arizona AZ DCP Statement

 

Targeting charities: ADWR fields straight-shooting team for annual Clay Target Fun Shoot

ADWR SECC Clay Target Group 11.2018

ADWR’s Clay Target Fun Shoot team: (from left) Norman Lew, Mark Perez, Paul Yunker, Jason Mitchell and John Riggins at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in north Phoenix

ADWR employees participated in the 21st Annual State Employees Charitable Campaign Clay Target Fun Shoot held November 5 at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in north Phoenix.

Proceeds from the event benefit Special Olympics of Arizona, Wildlife for Tomorrow and the Arizona Elk Society.  Although totals are not yet available this year, in previous years clay-target shoot has been one of the largest single-event fundraisers that the SECC sponsors.

Team members included ADWR employees John Riggins, Mark Perez and Jason Mitchell, as well as Norman Lew of the Department of Economic Security, and Paul Yunker, husband of ADWR’s Dianne Yunker.

Thanks to all the employees who donated their time and effort!

New ADWR “Story Map” Uses High-Tech Imagery To Tell Story Of Willcox Area Land Subsidence

ADWR Story Map image

Since the dawn of modern science – since Copernicus struggled to bring around 16th century skeptics to his evidence of a heliocentric solar system – illustrating complex science to a general audience has proved challenging.

A century or so after Copernicus, Galileo and his famous telescope would (eventually, at least) help illustrate the Polish astronomer’s claim that the earth revolved around the sun, as opposed to the other way around.

Proving, in other words, that images matter. Text is good. Text and way-cool images? Even better.

Following in Galileo’s footsteps, researchers in the Arizona Department of Water Resources’ Hydrology Division have developed one of the department’s most visually appealing presentations ever:

A “story map” depicting land subsidence in the Willcox Groundwater Basin, where ADWR recently completed work on a comprehensive groundwater-flow model.

Focusing on the prevalence of land subsidence in the Willcox Basin, the story map uses interactive imagery as a compliment to textual descriptions of the area’s subsidence issues. Together, they paint (quite literally) a clear picture of the dramatic subsidence issues facing the region.

Produced for ADWR by GIS Application Developer Karen Fisher and Brian Conway, supervisor of the Geophysics/Surveying Unit, the “story map” brings together into a single, user-friendly package a wide assortment of the tools that hydrologists employ to analyze groundwater conditions.

“This story map is the first of hopefully other story maps that combine (geographic information system, or “GIS”) maps, data analysis, images/multimedia content, and a summary of various Water Resources topics in an easy to read format to tell a story,” said Conway.

Fisher said they selected the Willcox Basin as the subject of the story map due to the area “having the highest annual magnitude of land subsidence in Arizona,” as well as “a number of active earth fissures.”

Fisher designed the story map using ArcGIS mapping and analytics software, a product of Esri, a global market leader in GIS.

“Esri has story-map templates that they have been encouraging their users to use,” said Fisher.

“Brian and I both thought of the idea and wanted to highlight land subsidence in hope that it would inspire other groups at ADWR to put their projects into a story map.”

As described by Esri, story maps “are a simple yet powerful way to inform, engage, and inspire people with any story you want to tell that involves maps, places, locations, or geography.”

The web applications, the firm notes, “let authors combine beautiful maps with narrative text, striking images, and multimedia, including video.”

The narrative text is the other beauty of the ADWR land-subsidence story map.

Its text is general-audience friendly – scientifically precise while, at the same time, expressing the complex land-subsidence issues the map depicts clearly enough for a high-school age, would-be hydrologist to appreciate.

In addition to the direct link found above, the story map is available at the ADWR Hydrology eLibrary, which can be found here: https://new.azwater.gov/hydrology/e-library

On-Going Experiment In High-Volume CO River Releases From Glen Canyon Dam Set for November 5

Glen Canyon Dam high flow release photo

Science is all about experimentation, and one of the more spectacular experiments in the movement of Colorado River sediment is set to begin in a matter of days.

Beginning November 5, the Department of Interior will begin a High-Flow Experiment (HFE) release of water out of Glen Canyon Dam, slowly ramping up the volume to 38,100 cubic feet per second, which it will maintain for 60 hours over three days.

The forceful water release is intended to mimic the floods that once drove enormous volumes of sand through the river canyons prior to the construction of Glen Canyon Dam, which rebuilt eroded sandbars downstream.

Those reconstituted, enlarged beaches serve a number of valuable purposes – from providing camping space for river-rafters to creating backwater habitat for native fish populations. The enlarged eddies and pools enhanced by those bigger sandbars also encourage the growth of riparian vegetation that provides habitat for birds and other wildlife.

The upcoming “HFE” release is the first under the newly minted 2016 Record of Decision for the Glen Canyon Dam, which provides a framework for adaptively managing Glen Canyon Dam over the next 20 years. The goal of the “ROD” is to create certainty and predictability for water and power users while protecting environmental and cultural resources in Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River ecosystem.

The high-volume water release experiment, meanwhile, is a component of the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act, which mandated that Glen Canyon Dam be operated in a manner that protects the values for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon Recreational Area were established. The first-ever release was conducted in 1996. Known as the Beach Habitat Building Flow, it was designed to mimic the dynamics of a natural system, including building high-elevation sandbars, depositing nutrients, and restoring backwater channels.

Given its unprecedented mission – imitating the sediment-rich flood conditions of a pre-Glen Canyon Dam river – the HFE releases have been genuinely experimental, adapting and changing as more data were accumulated about their impact.

Release times are scheduled to coincide with the periods that its tributaries – the Paria and Little Colorado rivers – have deposited their largest volumes of sand into the Colorado River.

A lot of concerns factor into the timing of HFE releases. One of the primary concerns is avoiding spreading the seeds of non-native vegetation, such as tamarisk, whose seed production generally occurs between April and September.

The effort to improve habitat for native fish species is a work in progress, too. Early on, researchers found that the intensity of the releases actually worked to expand habitat for non-native trout, which fed on rare native species like the humpback chub.

These discoveries have been the cornerstone of the “adaptive management” strategies adopted by the Department of Interior for the Glen Canyon Dam. The USGS researchers – considered the architects of the HFE — have had to change their strategies of making maximum use of the HFE releases by changing and adapting as new scientific findings improved their understanding of how HFE releases affect the Colorado River ecosystem.

The releases by the Department of Interior are conducted in consultation with the Colorado River Basin States, including Arizona, as well as with Native American tribes, federal and state agencies and with input from Glen Canyon Adaptive Management Program stakeholders.

The Department reports that the HFE releases will not impact the total annual amount of water released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead in water year 2019.

How Will AZDCP Fit Into The Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan?

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While Arizona water managers and affected stakeholders have been meeting almost daily over the past several months to finalize the state’s Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), plans have been underway on a parallel track for several years to ensure the framework is in place for the entire Colorado River Basin DCP.

Chronic, often severe drought in the Southwest is seriously straining the Colorado River system. With Lake Powell less than half full and Lake Mead below 40 percent of capacity, the seven Colorado River states are preparing to act should Lake Mead continue falling toward critical surface levels. At the same time, some states – including Arizona – are developing drought contingency plans supporting intrastate needs to contend with future Colorado River shortages.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released drafts of the Upper Basin DCP and Lower Basin DCP documents. This gives the first glimpse at what will be included in the interstate agreement amongst the Upper Basin and Lower Basin states. These documents contain actions that are in addition to the provisions of the existing system-wide agreement, formally known as the Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

According to the Bureau’s website:

  • The Upper Basin DCP is designed to: a) protect critical elevations at Lake Powell and help assure continued compliance with the 1922 Colorado River Compact, and b) authorize storage of conserved water in the Upper Basin that could help establish the foundation for a Demand Management Program that may be developed in the future.
  • The Lower Basin DCP is designed to: a) require Arizona, California and Nevada to contribute additional water to Lake Mead storage at predetermined elevations, and b) create additional flexibility to incentivize additional voluntary conservation of water to be stored in Lake Mead.

These documents show the interstate framework into which the intrastate (in our case, AZDCP) will fit. AZDCP work continues and we anticipate our intrastate implementation plan and framework will be completed by the end of November, prior to the December Colorado River Water Users Association meeting, at which point the entire plan will come together.

For more information on AZDCP, visit ADWR’s website or CAP’s website.

The Pumpkin speaks: Be afraid, water users… be very afraid

The Arizona Department of Water Resources held its annual “Fall Festival” celebration during the lunch hour on Thursday. Needless to say, a fun time was had by all.  In addition to caramel apples, cider and (the ubiquitous) hot dogs and popcorn, the Department employees held a pumpkin-decorating contest.

The “Most Creative” pumpkin? An absolutely precious offering from water-resources specialist (and, cat lover) Claire Jaramillo:

Basket of Kittens Pumpkin 2018

In addition, Mark Joyner of the Surface Water Rights division created the “Spookiest” pumpkin. For those of us knee-deep in the effort to conclude a Drought Contingency Plan, Mark’s offering was spooky, indeed:

Fall Festival 2018 Scariest Pumpkin

Analysts on the scene calculated that, yes, the amount of water in Mark’s pumpkin was approaching… deadpool.

(Editor’s note: for readers not conversant in DCP-speak, the Bureau of Reclamation calculates a better-than 50-50 chance that water levels at Lake Mead will fall below 1,075 feet by 2020, triggering a Tier 1 shortage declaration. Should the reservoir some day fall below 1,025 feet, it would be entering the most serious shortage tier, Tier 3, and would be approaching levels at which water no longer would flow through the Hoover Dam spillways. Those worst-case-scenario levels – generally believed to be below 900 feet – are known as “deadpool.” Negotiations in Arizona on an in-state Drought Contingency Plan that would mitigate the most dire scenarios are underway.) 

The winners:

2018 Fall Festival pics 2

 

 

Online, Interactive Program Featuring STEM Professionals Taps Water Resources Talent

The professionals doing science-based work at the Arizona Department of Water Resources have taken their duties “live.”

Active Management Areas Planning Manager Natalie Mast and Hydrologist IV Brian Conway, who supervises the Geophysics-Surveying Unit, were featured in a recent segment of the STEM Pro Live! program, which selects professionals in science-related fields who share with students details about their jobs, as well as insight into the journey that led them into their respective science-oriented professions.

ADWR’s Brian Conway (left) and Natalie Mast prepare to respond to live viewer questions on “STEM Pro Live!”

Specifically, they have gone “STEM Pro Live!” Two ADWR team members with science backgrounds recently contributed to an innovative, interactive video project dedicated to piquing the interest of young students in the sciences.

In addition to a pre-recorded “profile” segment, the “STEM Pro Live!” program included a Q&A segment in which Mast and Conway responded directly to student questions.

The show’s producers estimated that about 900 students, mostly from Maricopa County schools, viewed the segment, which remains posted on the “STEM Pro Live!” website. The program has caught the attention of students from as far away as Hawaii and Michigan.

Student viewers watch as Mast and Conway answer their questions about the science they do at ADWR

“This (segment) was a ‘water cycle’ program,” explained Mast. “It showed how we track water and how that data feeds into water management and tells us how end-users use their water.”

The ADWR segment went over so well, according to the show’s producers, that they are planning another ADWR segment for next spring focusing on drought and conservation.

Now in its fifth season, “STEM Pro Live!” is produced by the Maricopa County Education Service Agency, a division of the Office of the Maricopa County Schools Superintendent.

According to Laurie King of the Maricopa County School Superintendent’s Office, the Superintendent’s office put together the idea for the STEM Pro Live! program after participating in research studying why so few students pursue STEM fields. “STEM” is an abbreviation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“We found that if students don’t have a STEM “ID” by the time they finish middle school, they’re unlikely to continue,” said King.

“A major part of it is a role model,” she said – meaning, STEM professionals who appear to have the same motivating interests or background as the students themselves.

“STEM Pro Live!” producer fielding student queries

“The student connects,” said King, adding that the district has seen “quite a bit” of an increasing in students pursuing higher level STEM courses as a result.

The students, she said, are saying that “if you can do this, I can do this too.”

“For me, the STEM Pro Live video project allowed me to remember a lot of the amazing teachers that I had between 4th and 12th grades, as well as the amazing adventures I had, and also challenges,” said Conway.

“I also have had two amazing jobs during and after college: wildland firefighter and hydrologist.

“I hope that the stories that Natalie and I told will inspire kids to want to learn about and enter the STEM fields.  I also hope that the stories that Natalie and I told about being outside a lot — hiking, etc. — will motivate kids to put down their electronic devices and go outside more.”

         

Workshops on community water infrastructure financing opportunities still open through September

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The Water Infrastructure Financing Authority of Arizona (WIFA) has recently redesigned its Technical Assistance Program and is now offering additional lending options. Communities that are contemplating their next water or waste­water infrastructure project, may benefit from what WIFA has to offer.

WIFA acts as a “bond bank” that is able to issue water quality bonds on behalf of communities for basic water infrastructure. The program is authorized to finance the construction, rehabilitation and/or improvement of drinking water, wastewater, reclamation and other water-related projects.

WIFA already has conducted a Phoenix-area workshop, held on September 12. Statewide, however, there is still time to sign up for local-area workshops:

PHOENIX ……………………………….. Wednesday, Sept. 12 at l p.m.

WIFA Board Room, 100 North 15th Avenue, Suite 103

SHOW LOW ………………………………….. Tuesday, Sept. 18 at l p.m.

Show Low Public Works, 181 N. 9th Street – Council Chambers

YUMA ……………………………………………. Thursday, Sept. 20 at l p.m.

Yuma County Public Works, 4343 S Avenue 5 l/2E

FLAGSTAFF ………………………………….. Tuesday, Sept. 25 at l p.m.

Rio de Flag Water Reclamation Plant, 600 Babbitt Drive

TUCSON ………………………………………. Thursday, Sept. 27 at l p.m.

State Goverment Bldg., 400 West Congress St., Suite 444

az_wifaTo RSVP, please visit https://bit.ly/2OVOSSE 

Have additional questions? Contact WIFA at 602-364-1310

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

By Tom Buschatzke, Arizona Department of Water Resources Director, and Ted Cooke, Central Arizona Project General Manager

The State’s water stakeholders have been engaged for more than two months to craft Arizona’s approach to the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan. This effort, led by our two agencies, is directed toward “bending the curve” to protect Lake Mead from falling to critical levels.

Recent reports from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have stated that the Colorado River Basin has avoided shortage for 2019, but has at least a 50/50 chance of moving into a shortage declaration in 2020.

So, will this drought contingency planning effort change that course? Will it keep the basin out of the Tier 1 shortage to be declared at Lake Mead elevation 1075’?

The answer to both questions is, simply, “no.”

The Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or LBDCP, is not designed to keep Lake Mead above the first tier of shortage. Rather, it’s meant 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.

The risks to the Colorado River have increased from what was expected when the Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortage were established in 2007. The tools provided in those guidelines now are insufficient to address the current risks to the system.

Over the last several years, water users in the Lower Basin states have worked together to voluntarily contribute water to Lake Mead, staving off shortage since 2015. However, after nearly two decades of drought and the recent poor hydrology (meaning little snow in the Upper Basin), a Tier 1 shortage is imminent, even with these increased conservation efforts. Whether it’s in 2020 or a year or two after, that first level of shortage likely will occur, regardless of LBDCP.

If not to keep us from shortage, then why is the Lower Basin’s DCP important?

One of the most important components lies in the realm of collaboration.

By working together, Arizona, California, Nevada, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and now Mexico (through the recent treaty update known as Minute 323), we can chart a path forward so one state alone does not feel the brunt of shortage. Once LBDCP is in place, we can work in partnership to leave enough water in Lake Mead so the lake begins to recede at a slower level – the “bending of the curve,” which has been rapidly trending downward. It will take some time to get there, but by starting now, there will be more leverage and momentum to prevent the lake from falling to critically low levels.

To make this happen sooner, rather than later, we have formed a Steering Committee with representation from a variety of sectors within Arizona. This group has been meeting bi-weekly beginning in late July and likely will continue past Thanksgiving. This “AZDCP” effort includes four essential elements for implementing the LBDCP in Arizona, which the group has begun to work through. The goal is to have a plan in place before the end of the year that would incorporate broad-based agreement within Arizona supporting an effective LBDCP. The State Legislature would then consider the proposal in early 2019 to authorize the State of Arizona to sign the LBDCP.

Each public Steering Committee meeting we’ve held has essentially been standing-room only. It’s clear a lot of people believe negotiating an effective Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan is vital to our State. And each meeting tends to spawn additional meetings with people throughout Arizona working feverishly to get this done – not to keep us out of shortage, but to keep us and the Colorado River system from being in an even worse place.

Much work has been done and much will continue to be done – but the sooner we have the drought-contingency plan in place, the greater the benefits we will all reap via a plan that is acceptable to all Arizona water users.

To stay informed, visit www.azwater.gov and www.cap-az.com/AZDCP.

Arizona’s Summer Monsoon Season Has Been A Lively One. But ‘Liveliest Ever?’

After a so-so start to the southern Arizona summer “monsoon” season, storms pounded Tucson through early August with almost rhythmic frequency.

It was much the same in the metropolitan Phoenix area, which saw an unusual spate of strong storms moving through Arizona’s south-central Valley on five out of six days beginning on August 7.

This year’s summer storm activity has been widespread. Arizona’s eastern mountains saw almost daily rainfall from mid-July through early- to mid-August.  To the north, meanwhile, the strong storms started in earnest early.

Persistent, heavy rain battered the Flagstaff region commencing in mid-July, generating flash floods and localized flooding in many Flagstaff-area neighborhoods.

On July 18, a an estimated “1,000-year” storm dumped an astonishing six inches of rain on Flagstaff, with 4.5 inches of it pouring down in a span of just two hours.

The summer storm season has been so strong at times, in fact, that it has prompted some to ask: Is this the strongest monsoon-storm season ever for Arizona?

There’s no simple answer to that.

Arizona takes its summer monsoon season seriously. There is an extended web of agencies, including the Arizona Department of Water Resources, that performs a vast array of services tied to storm activity.

The National Weather Service, for example, monitors the conditions that may provoke Arizona storms. It reports both locally and from the service’s Climate Prediction Center (a function of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in Maryland.

A complex, multi-agency system in Arizona, meanwhile, uses sophisticated land- and satellite-based technology to track storm production, including rain levels and flooding, and gets that information out to the public as soon as possible.

ADWR is the lead State agency for the Arizona Flood Warning System, or AFWS.

The AFWS is comprised of local, state and federal entities that collaborate on statewide strategies for flood management.

Podcast: Arizona Water Resources talks with Brian Cosson, Flood Warning Coordinator for ADWR

So, what is all that data telling us about the strength of the 2018 summer monsoon season thus far? It has set records in Flagstaff. But elsewhere?

Paul Iñiguez, a meteorologist with the NWS in Phoenix, recently told the Arizona Republic that from the standpoint of rainfall, the summer monsoons have been very productive in central Arizona, too.

“From June 15th through August 12th, this is the second most rain on average across (Phoenix) since 1990,” Iñiguez said. “It’s been wet.”

Some of the strength of the summer storms may be derived from “moisture surges” egged along by “tropical cyclones.”

Jon Gottschalck, chief of the Operational Prediction Branch at the Climate Prediction Center with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told KJZZ recently about how “tropical cyclones” in the eastern Pacific basin are connected to Arizona’s monsoon storms.

Hurricanes, typhoons and other major Pacific storms all come under the general heading of tropical cyclones.

“Sea-surface temperatures, or ocean temperatures at the surface are strongly positive, meaning warmer than normal,” said Gottschalck. “And when those temperatures that are warmer than normal have been persisting for quite some time, there is more energy for tropical cyclones to develop.”

He said a spate of tropical cyclones in the eastern Pacific likely contributed to the moisture surges in Arizona and New Mexico that, among other things, produced the amazing string of consecutive stormy days in central Arizona.

Big Pacific storms, he said, do not have to  make direct hits on the Southwest to have an impact.

“The systems very often create moisture surges up the coast,” he said. “That very often tends to create stronger coverage of rainfall. In general, these storms don’t have to make direct hits on Arizona and New Mexico to do that.”

(For more on research into monsoon activity in Arizona, view the video below)