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.

 

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

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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.

 

Final DCP Steering Committee meeting scheduled for February 19

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A final wrap-up meeting of the 40-plus member Steering Committee – the stakeholder group that over the last 8 months debated and negotiated the Intra-Arizona DCP Implementation Plan – is scheduled for Tuesday, February 19 at the Central Arizona Project headquarters.

The agenda for the meeting is available at the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Planning websites at both the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the CAP.

The agenda includes:

  • A recap of the Arizona DCP legislation
  • A status summary of the Intra-Arizona Implementation Plan
  • An outline of actions needed to achieve Congressional approval
  • Delegate comments
  • A Steering Committee resolution

Details:

Who: Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan Arizona Implementation Steering Committee

What: Wrap-up, recap, status reports, delegate observations and Steering Committee resolution

Where: CAP headquarters, 23636 N. Seventh St., Phoenix

When: February 19, 2019; 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.

 

Enormous Symbol Of Water Conservation Campaign On Display In The Executive Tower Lobby

The imposing “Water – Use It Wisely” tower – a 16-foot tall pyramid of one-gallon water jugs – is now on display in the Executive Tower lobby.

The display reflects Governor Ducey’s expressed commitment to water issues during the current legislative session. Those include protecting the Colorado River system, as well as emphasizing the theme of the long-running Water – Use It Wisely campaign, which is to bolster water conservation efforts in Arizona communities.

Constructed from 120 water jugs, the tower represents a physical depiction of the amount of water – 120 gallons – that the average person in Arizona consumes daily.

Typically, that use includes seven gallons consumed either by drinking or cooking, 14 gallons used by shower or bath, 15 gallons by toilets, 18 gallons used up daily by household cleaning such as washing machines or dishwashers, and 66 gallons used daily for outdoor uses such as watering lawns and plants.

The tower will be on display at the Executive Tower at 1700 W. Washington St. through the month of January.

The Water – Use It Wisely campaign is a two-decade partnership among Arizona communities and organizations dedicated to providing Arizonans with meaningful tools for efficiently limiting water waste.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources is a Regional Campaign Steering Committee partner of the campaign.

For further information about the Tower, see:

ADWR Public Information Officer Sally Stewart Lee

sslee@azwater.gov or (602) 771-8530

 

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