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Western Plateau Planning Area Water Supply - Surface Water

Figure 6.0-15

Figure 6.0-15 Average Annual Water Supply Utilized in the Western Plateau Planning Area, 2001-2005 (in acre-feet)

Water supplies in the Western Plateau Planning Area include groundwater, surface water and effluent.  As shown on Figure 6.0-15, groundwater is the primary water supply, accounting for about 63% of the demand.  Surface water is used for agricultural irrigation in the Virgin River and Kanab Plateau basins and for municipal use in the Coconino Plateau and Kanab Plateau basins.  It is estimated that about 34% of the total water demand is met with surface water.  Effluent is utilized for golf course irrigation and for landscape irrigation, toilet flushing and other uses in the Coconino Plateau Basin, contributing 3% of the planning area’s water supply. For purposes of the Atlas, water diverted from a watercourse or spring is considered surface water and if it is pumped from wells, it is accounted for as groundwater.  This is reflected in the cultural water demand tables in each basin section. 

Surface Water

About 3,300 AFA of surface water diverted from streams or springs was used on average in the planning area during 2001-2005.  Surface water is used primarily for agricultural irrigation but also as a municipal and industrial water supply. Surface water availability is subject to drought and legal access to supplies.

Surface water from Roaring Springs, located 3,000 feet below the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, is the primary water supply for both the North and South Rims.   Spring water is pumped to the North Rim from the Roaring Springs pump station and delivered via the Trans-Canyon Pipeline.  The Trans-Canyon Pipeline delivers water by gravity flow to Indian Gardens, located below the South Rim, where it is pumped from the Indian Garden pump station through a directional bore hole to water storage tanks on the South Rim.  A small portion of the water flowing to Indian Gardens is diverted from the pipeline to Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood Campground.  The pipeline has experienced failures an average of 10 to 12 times a year due to washouts during high flow events and bends in the pipeline. For this reason, the Park is studying alternatives to provide reliable, long-term water supplies. Potential alternatives that have been identified include construction of wellfields, diversion of Colorado River water to the South Rim, trucking in water, construction of an infiltration gallery and pumping plant on Bright Angel Creek to supply the South Rim and Phantom Ranch, and other alternatives (USBOR, 2002). There are concerns regarding use of current and future supplies and potential impacts on seeps and springs in the Grand Canyon.  Several Arizona Water Protection Fund Projects have funded studies to help research these impacts.

In the Coconino Plateau Basin, the City of Williams historically relied on surface water stored in five small reservoirs with a combined storage capacity of 893 million gallons (2,740 acre-feet).  The reservoirs, constructed between 1892 and 1952, collect inflow from snowmelt.  Evaporation and seepage from the reservoirs is substantial, with losses greater than the city’s annual demand.  Two dry years in a row can result in significant stress to the supply system. When surface water supplies were seriously impacted in 1996 the City began a well drilling program to supplement its surface water supplies during periods of shortage (Pinkham and Davis, 2002). As a result and due to ongoing drought, the community utilized primarily groundwater in recent years.

Santa Fe Dam

Santa Fe Dam, City of Williams. the City of Williams historically relied on surface water stored in five small reservoirs with a combined storage capacity of 893 million gallons. 

Havasu Creek, which flows from springs emanating from the Redwall-Muav Formations, is a water supply for the Havasupai Tribe at Supai.  Surface water is used as both a municipal and agricultural supply on the reservation.

In the Kanab Plateau Basin surface water is a supply at several location. Surface water from Kanab Creek, diverted between Kanab Dam and Fredonia Dam has been used for irrigation in the Fredonia area (ADWR, 1998). The USGS conducted an investigation in 2008 and found 413 acres irrigated with surface water. The Arizona Strip Partnership (now inactive) identified the lack of sufficient surface water supplies for agriculture as an issue in Fredonia.  Part of Fredonia’s municipal water supply may be surface water delivered from Utah.  Jacob Lake Lodge on the Kaibab Plateau uses about seven acre-feet of spring water a year from Warm Spring.  Surface water from springs has also been a supply for Twin City Water (Colorado City), although current use is not reported, and for Badger Creek Water in the small community of Vermilion Cliffs.  In addition, Marble Canyon Company has a Colorado River diversion entitlement of 70 AFA.

Virgin River near Scenic

Virgin River.  In 2000, about 1,700 acres in the Littlefield area were in cultivation and surface water from the Virgin River was the primary agricultural water supply. However, due to subsequent flood damage and conversion to domestic uses, agricultural acreage has declined significantly

The springs at Pipe Springs National Monument have historically been used for domestic, ranching and farming purposes.  A pipeline from Tunnel Spring conveys water outside the monument to maintain water-use agreements with the local cattleman’s association.  In 1971, a well was drilled outside the monument to meet the growing needs of the monument and the Kaibab-Paiute Indian Tribe (Truini and others, 2004).

In the Virgin River Basin, a small amount of surface water is diverted from Beaver Dam Wash for golf course irrigation.  In 2000, about 1,700 acres in the Littlefield area were in cultivation and surface water from the Virgin River was the primary agricultural water supply.  However, due to subsequent flood damage and conversion to domestic uses, agricultural acreage has declined significantly. A USGS investigation in 2007 showed only 42 acres of irrigated land in the basin. Surface water was no longer being diverted for agricultural use; all remaining lands were irrigated with groundwater.

In addition to physical availability, the legal availability of a surface water supply is also an important consideration in water management.  As described in detail in Appendix C, the legal framework and process under which surface water right applications and claims are administered and determined is complex.  Rights to surface water are subject to the doctrine of prior appropriation which is based on the tenet “first in time, first in right”. This means that the person who first put the water to a beneficial use acquires a right that is superior to all other surface water rights with a later priority date. Under the Public Water Code, beneficial use is the basis, measure and limit to the use of water. Each type of surface water right filing is assigned a unique number as explained in Appendix C and shown in Table 6.0-7. A Certificate of Water Right (CWR) may be issued if the terms of the permit to appropriate water (3R, 4A, or 33, and in certain cases 38) are met.  CWRs retain the original permit application number.  The act of filing a statement of claim of rights to use public waters (36) does not in itself create a water right.

Arizona has two general stream adjudications in progress to determine the nature, extent and priority of water rights across the entire river systems of the Gila River and the Little Colorado River. Pertinent to the Western Plateau Planning Area, the Little Colorado River (LCR) Adjudication area extends into the eastern portion of the Coconino Plateau Basin. The LCR Adjudication is being conducted in the Superior Court of Arizona in Apache County. The LCR Adjudication was initiated by a petition filed by Phelps Dodge Corporation in 1978. It now covers 27,000 square miles and includes three watersheds (Lower Little Colorado River, Upper Little Colorado River and Silver Creek), 5 Indian tribes (Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Fort Apache and San Juan Southern Paiute) and over 3,000 parties.  All parties who claim to have a water right within the river system are required to file a statement of claimant (SOC) (39) or risk loss of their right.  This includes reserved water rights for public lands and Indian reservations which for the most part, have not been quantified or prioritized. Results from the Department’s investigation of surface water right and adjudication filings are presented in Hydrographic Survey Reports (HSRs); none of which include lands in the Western Plateau Planning Area.

Table 6.0-7 summarizes the number of surface water right and adjudication filings in the planning area. The methodology used to query the Department’s surface water right and SOC registries is described in Appendix C.  Of the 3,947 filings that specify surface water diversion points and places of use in the planning area, 1,227 CWRs have been issued to date. Figure 6.0-16 shows the general location of surface water diversion points listed in the Department’s surface water rights registry. The numerous points reflect the large number of stockponds and reservoirs that have been constructed in the planning area as well as diversions from streams and springs. Locations of registered wells, many of which are referenced as the basis of claim in SOCs are also shown in Figure 6.0-16.

Table 6.0-7 Inventory of surface water right and adjudication filings in the

Western Plateau Planning Area (1)

Table 6.0-7

Click to view Figure 6.0-16

As listed in Table 6.0-7, surface water rights may also be determined through judicial action in state or federal court in which the court process establishes or confirms the validity of the rights and claims and ranks them according to priority. Court decreed rights are considered the most certain surface water right. The single major court determination in the planning area is Arizona vs California (1963) which apportioned waters from the mainstem of the Colorado River to the Lower and Upper Basin States and allocated 2.8 maf a year to Arizona.  It also reserved water for certain Indian Tribes (none in the planning area) and included provisions for release of water from reservoirs controlled by the United States under normal, surplus and shortage conditions, which includes Lake Powell in the planning area.

Each year, the Secretary is required to declare whether the Colorado River water supply is in a normal, surplus or shortage condition for the Lower Division States (Arizona, California, Nevada).  Until 2007, Reclamation lacked specific guidelines to address the operation of Lake Mead and Lake Powell during drought.  Following multiple years of drought and decreasing water supplies in storage, in May 2005 the Secretary directed that the Bureau of Reclamation develop guidelines for the operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead under low reservoir conditions. To address this situation, Reclamation released a Final EIS: Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations of Lakes Powell and Mead (USBOR, 2007b). The Record of Decision was signed in December, 2007. One of the purposes of the guidelines is to provide greater predictability regarding the amount of annual water deliveries to mainstream Colorado River water users in the Lower Division states.

Final EIS reservoir management under shortage conditions includes: adoption of guidelines to identify under what circumstances the Secretary would reduce the annual amount of water available to the Lower Division States from Lake Mead below 7.5 maf/year; define the coordinated operation of Lake Mead and Lake Powell to improve operations under low reservoir conditions; allow for storage and delivery of conserved  water in Lake Mead to increase the flexibility of meeting water needs under drought and low storage conditions; and determine those conditions under which the Secretary may declare the availability of surplus water for use within the Lower Division States. (USBOR, 2007b).

The location of surface water resources for each basin in the planning area are shown on surface water condition maps, and maps showing perennial and intermittent streams and major springs.  Tables with data on streamflow, flood ALERT equipment, reservoirs, stockponds and springs are also presented in the basin sections (6.1 – 6.6).


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