Historic Agreement Reached in Arizona to Avert Devastating Water Shortages in the West: Audubon says “critical step in protecting 36 million people and 400 species of birds”

‘Water is not infinite—but we’ve been treating Colorado River water like it is for decades…’

PHOENIX— “More than 400 bird species and 36 million people rely on the Colorado River. The stakes are high and this landmark agreement strikes a commonsense approach between the needs of people and wildlife in the West. Good things happen when people set aside their differences and work towards solutions that benefit us all,” said David Yarnold, President and CEO of National Audubon Society (@david_yarnold) after the Arizona Legislature passed the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). “Research shows that as temperatures continue to rise the Colorado River and related rivers will become even more important refuges for people and birds like the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Yellow Warbler.”

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is expected to sign the bill later today.  

“Water is not infinite—but we’ve been treating Colorado River water like it is for decades—this agreement creates new rules for sharing the responsibility to keep more water in rivers and reservoirs,” said Karyn Stockdale, Audubon’s Senior Director of the Western Water Initiative. “As we face another year of historic drought, the DCP helps us plan for a warmer, drier future. While there is more work to be done, this is a major step not just for the future of the Colorado River, but for the  people, birds, economies and cities of the arid West.”

Lake Mead, located along the Colorado River, provides drinking water to all major cities in the lower basin (Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas) as well as millions of acres of farmland in Arizona, California, Nevada, and northwestern Mexico. Audubon utilized its unparalleled wingspan to advocate for the DCP in Arizona and across the West.

“Shortage on the river is imminent, but a catastrophic one is not. We know the shortages are coming—but with this agreement we’ve given ourselves a chance to control our own destiny and adapt to long-term changes in our water supply,” said Jennifer Pitt, Audubon’s Colorado River Program Director. “As of today, Arizona has averted the strife and litigation inevitable without the Drought Contingency Plan.”

Some 81 percent of Arizona residents believe that inadequate water supplies are a serious problem, and they have expressed overwhelming support for bold actions from the state to ensure the sustainable use of our water resources.

“Arizona is a long-anticipated big piece of the DCP puzzle. This is a huge victory for people and birds. Future generations of Arizonans—all of whom depend on our ability to be forward-thinking about our water—will benefit from this plan to improve the reliability of the Colorado River’s water supply,” said Sonia Perillo, Audubon Arizona’s Executive Director. “Arizona is a leader in water policy, we have been for a long time. Today, we again rose to the occasion and I commend all of our leaders and the tremendously varied partners who came together to make it happen.”

About Audubon:

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more and how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

The Western Water Initiative is Audubon's multi-state effort to protect the Colorado River and the West’s network of Saline Lakes. Some 65,000 members strong and growing, the network advocates for science-based, non-partisan water policies and management that benefit rivers and lakes for the birds, wildlife, habitats, cities, and economies they support. To learn more, visit: www.audubon.org/westernwater.



Joey Kahn, jkahn@audubon.org, (480) 788-2416