Western Water News

What is Going on with Water Planning in Arizona?

Work continues on a drought plan that will better prepare Arizona for a drier future for people and birds.

Progress is moving along after what was supposed to be the final Arizona Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) Steering Committee last week.

While a new proposal was introduced with strong support, more meetings and more negotiations will be necessary to reach a consensus that all DCP Steering Committee delegates can get behind.

The proposal, as presented by the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project, leaves more water in Lake Mead than is taken out—this is good for people and birds. Also noteworthy were new funding commitments from the Governor’s office (for $30 million) and from the Walton Family Foundation and other philanthropic groups, called the Water Funders Initiative (for $8 million). These dollars would contribute toward system conservation—compensating water users with the rights to use Colorado River water to not use that water, and instead leave it in Lake Mead. Doing so helps prop up lake levels, in hopes of avoiding more catastrophic shortages.

Shoring up Lake Mead is crucial for birds and habitat in Arizona. If Lake Mead crashed to levels where no water could be released from the dam, the impacts to habitat and wildlife (not to mention cities, agriculture, and recreational opportunities) along the Lower Colorado River would be devastating.

We must do all that we can to keep Lake Mead from reaching critically low levels, and the DCP is the best option we have to help us prepare for a drier future. The proposal currently on the table conserves more water in Lake Mead through a mix of mechanisms and incentives to reduce water demand.

While the Arizona DCP Steering Committee has yet to reach a consensus to bring a deal to the Legislature (who must approve any agreement), all parties remain at the negotiating table—progress when it comes to the contentious issue of Arizona water and how to share in the pain of reduced Colorado River water supplies. The goal remains to bring forward a deal for the Arizona Legislature to pass in early 2019.

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