Arizona And Its Colorado River Water

Colorado River Water Briefing
May 9, 2016

Historically and traditionally, Arizona has taken action to avoid water crises.

In the midst of the still raging 16-year drought, the state will be taking one more highly public action:

The Arizona Department of Water Resources, in partnership with the Central Arizona Project, is organizing a public briefing to inform water-users statewide about the complex challenges the region may face in coming years.

With the water levels of Lake Mead inexorably dropping as a result of persistent drought and chronic over-allocation, the state is on the crisis-fighting clock once again.

Action options on the table include an agreement – still under negotiation among the three Lower Basin states, Arizona, California and Nevada – to accept new, unprecedented allocation cuts in coming years.

As described by Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke, those actions could include Arizona and Nevada taking additional cuts, at higher levels, in their allocations than the cuts already accepted by the states in 2007. They also could include allocation reductions for California, an unprecedented event.

These are highly sensitive negotiations based upon complex and dynamic developments.

  • What, exactly, is Arizona’s Colorado River allocation? And who gets it?
  • What, exactly, will it mean to residents of the state if its allocation is cut back?
  • Why is the stability of Lake Mead so important?
  • Will all the Colorado River states share in allocation cutbacks if they become necessary? If so, which ones

To help flesh out these and plenty of other questions about Arizona’s water supply, Water Resources and the CAP have planned a public briefing on the subject on May 18 at ADWR headquarters.

The event also will be simulcast remotely at CAP’s north Phoenix headquarters, as well as at its offices in Tucson.

The briefing will give the public an opportunity to learn from some of the state’s top water managers, as well as the managers of the CAP, the vast delivery system that brings Colorado River water from Lake Mead to the state’s cities and farms.

Projections show Lake Mead water levels are coming perilously close to the point that a declaration of shortfall may kick in. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the Colorado River system, the lake should remain at least three feet above the level that would force allocation curtailments.

Going forward into 2017 and beyond is another story. The goal of the state’s water manager, ADWR, and the manager of the state’s Colorado River water delivery system, CAP, is to assure that Arizona and the other Lower Basin states write those new chapters, rather than the federal Department of the Interior.

Follow ADWR water news on Twitter at @azwater