Government Goings-on — May 2015

On April 22, ADWR and CAP jointly hosted an informational meeting on messaging the possible announcement of a declared shortage on the Colorado River. Some 150 people attended in person, and another 150 were online, which demonstrates the level of concern. You can see the presentations on the ADWR website.

If current conditions continue, the Bureau of Reclamation will declare a shortage on the Colorado River in 2016 (now at 33% probability) or in 2017 (much higher probability). Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico will take the first hit as shortage-sharing mechanisms are invoked. The massive negative coverage of the extreme drought in California — which takes no hit to its Colorado River deliveries —is something we do not want in Arizona. The CAP canal is vital to Arizona’s economy, and that is where the media attention will be focused. It is therefore important that everyone in the country — and the financiers on the East Coast in particular — understand that Arizona is not California. We need to deliver a consistent message concerning drought and our Colorado River supplies.

So here are some of the main points suggested by ADWR and CAP:

  • Arizona is not in a crisis because of the choices we have made and the actions that we continue to take.
  • Drought has adversely impacted some rural areas of the state.
  • Arizona has stored considerable water underground and will recover it as needed.
  • ADWR, CAP, SRP and other water agencies are watching the Colorado River situation and taking steps to address the risk of shortages.

Agriculture will be the first Arizona sector to experience curtailments in CAP deliveries, along with those using excess CAP such as the Water Bank and CAGRD. Municipal, industrial, and tribal customers will not experience cutbacks in deliveries through the first three tiers of CAP shortage.  One implication is that farmers will once again start pumping groundwater in massive quantities. In turn this could induce major revisions to groundwater flow models. Another implication might lie in the loss of riparian habitat. Such implications could initiate a regulatory response with unintended results. What other consequences could be seen?

“Where did the water go?” is the theme of the 2015 Annual Symposium. A more relevant topic, with all its implications, could not be imagined.

—Alan Dulaney

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