Topic: Water Rights


El Niño may save Arizona from CAP shortage

Excerpt: They delayed a water shortage for the Central Arizona Project that many officials had feared was imminent. The Colorado rainfall landed in the Upper Colorado River and its tributaries, and from there headed south and west, first to Lake Powell, then to Lake Mead. Much of that water will ultimately go into the CAP, a 336-mile-long system of canals and aqueducts that brings river water to Tucson and Phoenix.

The event shows how lucky Arizona has been when it comes to weather compared to California, which has been hit by severe water shortages due to drought over the past few years.

Excerpt: How did we avoid that? A partial cause could have been El Niño, the cyclical weather event triggered by periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. An errant jet stream storm track that bypassed California in favor of the Great Basin and Colorado also helped, experts say. But weather forecasters and analysts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aren’t ready to credit El Niño.

Excerpt: In the winter, Colorado’s high mountains often miss out on precipitation. But if they get 90 percent of normal snowpack or greater by the end of February, there’s a good chance of precipitation and runoff increasing into the spring, Wolter said. If El Niño precipitation continues into spring, odds of runoff increase in April.

Arizona's new water rush raising tensions

Excerpt: Farmers from California and Arizona are pushing to drill wells and pump unregulated water in Cochise County, triggering intense rivalries and calls for a crackdown.

Excerpt: The state doesn’t regulate water use in mostly rural Cochise County, so landowners today can pump with no limits. That’s in sharp contrast to Pima and Maricopa counties, which have had broad pumping controls since passage of the Arizona Groundwater Management Act in 1980. The limits on new irrigation sought for the San Simon area is already in effect in the urban counties.

Excerpt: As acreage has doubled, so has the rate of decline in the water table, state figures show, and it’s likely to accelerate if more farmers start drilling. That’s why the limits on new farming are needed, the petitioners say.

ProPublica Investigates Colorado River Water Woes

Excerpt: The investigative journalism group ProPublica has been taking an in-depth look at the water crisis in the West, in a series that is focused on the Colorado River.

Excerpt: What he said he's learned is that, drought or no drought, water use is a policy and management issue. He said he hopes readers of his reports take away the same message. "First and foremost is a greater awareness of how the decisions that we make politically and the places that we put our money affect the water crisis," he said. "I'd like to see the smart people in the room make changes based on that realization."

Excerpt: The ProPublica series paints a grim picture at times, from lack of federal oversight to feuds about water rights, to different states' and individuals' "use it or lose it" mentality about water. But according to its author, there's also hope for greater cooperation to help Westerners get through the drought. "What I hear from people I interview is, there's a lot of room in the law to allow sharing, transfers of rights, lesser usage of rights - while not threatening those rights," he said.

The Colorado River is not a water buffet.

Excerpt: As water shortages grip California and the seven state Colorado River basin, many users feel no pain, while some face a complete curtailment. That’s because the water management system is not designed to be either efficient or equitable but consistent and predictable. And it is.

Excerpt: But in a region facing drought, climate change and population growth simultaneously, the pace of change and the ambition of the proposals are too modest to head off some needless pain and suffering. In the meantime, the winners rejoice in their historically derived positions of power, the losers lament the perceived lack of equity and compassion and the general public demonizes farmers, fountains, immigrants, lawns and everyone from neighboring basins and states that continue to do nothing more than play by the established rules and incentives.

Gov. Ducey urges steps to protect Arizona water supply

Excerpt: Arizona has been able to withstand a 15-year arid spell through long-term planning and conservation without limitations, but dropping water levels at Lake Mead and possible shortages of Colorado River water could prompt major cuts in Arizona's supply by 2017.

Excerpt: Ducey stressed that Arizona has already taken much of the brunt of river shortages and said further actions wouldn't be fair. Arizona should not be forced to pay the price for California's inability to plan for drought, he said.

Excerpt: His comments come at a time when water managers in Arizona, Nevada and California are limiting the amount of water they are pulling from the Colorado River in an attempt to preserve the resource. Under an agreement reached late last year, Arizona will forego 345,000 acre feet of water over three years.

Arizona hopes for more control of its water

Excerpt: Arizona wants more control of its water resources as the ongoing drought in Western states brings the likelihood of further shortages to the region, a state official testified Tuesday.

Excerpt: Tom Buschatzke, the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, also told a Senate committee that any solution to the region’s water woes should “benefit the entire Colorado River system rather than any one particular Colorado River water user.”

Excerpt: He said that drought conditions are nothing new to Arizona, a desert state where residents have long known the value of water – and planned for it.

Excerpt: If water levels in Lake Mead fall below an elevation 1,075 feet, it requires a declaration by the federal government of a “Tier 1″ shortage on the river which, in turn, triggers a reduction in the amount of water states can draw from the river.

For Arizona, a Tier 1 shortage would mean the loss of 320,000 of its annual 2.8 million acre-feet allocation of the river’s water, he said.

Colorado in Grand Canyon rated No. 1 endangered river

Excerpt: The Grand Canyon stretch of the Colorado tops American Rivers' list of endangered rivers this year because of cumulative threats to scenery and spring water from commercial and residential development plans, and from a push to restart major uranium mining.

Excerpt: A gondola-tramway plan that would drop up to 10,000 tourists daily a few thousand feet down to the canyon bottom on the river's south side helped push the Grand Canyon section of the Colorado to the top of this year's list.

Excerpt: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told The Arizona Republic that the Interior Department's ban — a 20-year moratorium on new claims — was politically motivated and not backed by science.

"Ensuring a clean and safe Colorado River is in the best interest of every Arizonan," he said in an e-mailed statement, "and measures to do so, especially those that will eliminate economic opportunities, ought to reflect the best available science."

Parched: Arizona's shrinking aquifers

Excerpt: Arizona relies on groundwater for 40 percent of its water supply -- and that's a figure that took decades of political and economic wrangling to achieve. Facing major groundwater overdrafts in the 1970s, leaders launched the Central Arizona Project to bring Colorado River water to major metropolitan areas and enacted laws limiting pumping and banning irrigation expansion in critical areas.

Excerpt: But expect the focus on groundwater health to intensify. If the Colorado River is declared in a shortage, farmers around Phoenix expect to begin drilling again or, if they already are, increase their groundwater intake, Corkhill said.

Colorado to California: Hands off our water

Excerpt: Colorado is moving to keep tighter control over its own water supply, rankling drought-stricken western states like California.

Excerpt: James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, initially gave some tough remarks in explaining his state’s intentions in an interview with The Associated Press. “If anybody thought we were going to roll over and say, 'OK, California, you're in a really bad drought, you get to use the water that we were going to use,' they're mistaken," he said.

Excerpt: Every state gets a predetermined share of the resource, a quantity divided up in 1922 under a federal compact. And while the 1922 Colorado River Compact governs the system, scientists now know the 93-year-old agreement was reached at a time when the region was going through an unusually wet period. States get their allowance regardless of whether they need more or less.

Whose Colorado River Is It?

Excerpt: Dividing Up a Single Water Source Among 30 Million People—and Leaving Some for Nature—Is a Tricky Business

Excerpt: Over 30 million people rely on the Colorado River for water—for purposes ranging from drinking to agriculture to power plants. But scientists predict that the river isn’t going to produce the amount of water it did in the past—or does today. Which is why the question of whether or not the river can survive is a timely one, said Arizona Republic water reporter Shaun McKinnon. McKinnon was moderating a Zócalo/ASU event attended by a full-house crowd at ASU Colleges at Lake Havasu City.

Excerpt: Ferris said that local economies were built on having secure water rights. Over the years, legislation gets piled up on those rights, and laws become interwoven and difficult to change.

Most people came to the West from the East, which was wet, said Hawes. The miners and farmers were the first to migrate—and the government needed to convince them that they could make a living here. Guarantees of a consistent water supply did the work of convincing them.

How Arizona delayed a looming water crisis

Excerpt: With Lake Mead dangerously low, Arizona leaders have forged a remarkable agreement to fend off shortages.

Excerpt: And what a solution it is: an agreement among a variety of Arizona, Nevada and California interests aimed at keeping enough water in Lake Mead to buy time for long-term solutions. It also changes thinking about the Colorado River, making the three states partners rather than competitors jostling for every drop.

Excerpt: And this really is just the first step, the quick patch on the leak. Lake Mead is falling because Arizona, California and Nevada take more than nature can replenish. Long-term solutions require finding more water.

How not to squander Arizona's water legacy

Excerpt: The Salt River Project, the Central Arizona Project and the Groundwater Management Act are all examples of Arizonans recognizing critical needs and creating structures to deliver and manage our water supplies. More recently, the Groundwater Replenishment District and the Arizona Water Bank were formed to create more options for water preservation.

Excerpt: That legacy has enabled us to weather the current prolonged drought far more easily than other Western states, even while preserving agricultural use, holding down municipal water rates, avoiding mandatory rationing and banking water for future needs. As a state, we are currently using about the same amount of water we did in 1960, even as the population has increased nearly fivefold.

Excerpt: The issues of sharing, developing and managing water are at the center of our civilization in the arid Southwest. The Anasazi, the Hohokam and our Hispanic and Anglo forefathers all realized this. The legacy is ours to share, to celebrate and to protect. Let's get on with it.

Burning lemon trees in Yuma could mean water for Valley

Excerpt: Smoke rising from groves of lemon trees offers one dramatic visual clue to Arizona's increasingly complex water future: Groves here are going fallow, for a price, to test how much moisture farmers could spare for urban development.

Excerpt: But if the state continues to grow while, as government scientists predict, climate change continues to shrink the Colorado River, something has to give. Some of this region's farms are likely to prime the pump for profit.

Excerpt: The groundwater district is coming for a new dip into the river at exactly the time that other users fear the competition. Cities, including Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe, in the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association use CAP water directly instead of as an aquifer recharge.

"There's a lot of competition. There are shortages on the river that we're trying to deal with," association Executive Director Kathleen Ferris said.

"There is continuing concern within (the municipal suppliers) that this paradigm of allowing growth to proceed before water is in hand is not sustainable."

These maps of water use show why the Western US is in trouble

Excerpt: The American West has been wrestling with drought for the past 15 years. California is now facing its worst dry spell in at least a century. So, not surprisingly, the question of how best to manage America's scarce freshwater supplies is coming up more frequently.

Excerpt: To that end, the Hamilton Project recently published a helpful primer, "Nine Economic Facts about Water in the United States." The whole thing's worth reading, but four maps and charts in particular stuck out. For starters, some of the driest states in the West actually have some of the highest rates of household water use:

Excerpt: The report notes that some cities, like Phoenix and Los Angeles, have begun to reform their pricing schemes so that heavier water users get charged more.

But this is hardly universal. In most parts of the United States, the price of water doesn't reflect the infrastructure costs of delivering that water or the environmental damage that excessive water withdrawals can cause. As long as that's the case, there are few market incentives to conserve or allocate water more efficiently.

Water in the West: The West gets thirstier as water supplies dwindle

Excerpt: The state of water supplies in the arid West is volatile, and forecasts are grim. Lake Powell and Lake Mead are at alarmingly low levels, while populations across the West are swelling past the capacities of current water supplies.

The Colorado River Basin is facing a battle of sorts as the state works to create a water plan. It’s a battle against time and against competing water needs, both here in Colorado and in lower basin states including Nevada, Arizona and California.

Excerpt: The Colorado River Compact

With climate, population and water resources change upon us, those working toward drafting the state water plan sense that the potential for a Colorado water catastrophe is real.

That catastrophe could come in many forms, but the most feared is a curtailment of the Colorado River Compact of 1922.

Excerpt: When prices are low, people overuse water. But when they’re high, conservation becomes a lot easier and more attractive. And conservation is a big theme in the first draft of the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan, which came out last month and will undergo several more revisions before it’s sent to the state later this year for incorporation into the state water plan.

Study Urges Reuse and Conservation

Excerpt: Water conservation and reuse are being urged in a study that makes recommendations about addressing the Colorado River drought, which threatens the future well-being of Arizona and six other Western states.

Excerpt: He says everyone can all help out by trying to use less water in daily life. "People in Arizona can help save water by installing more efficient faucets, toilets, and switching to a desert landscape which requires far less water,” he points out. “We can all do our part and help ensure that we have enough water for the future." Rice adds the last decade of severe drought has left Colorado River levels at the two main storage reservoirs, Lake Mead in Nevada and Lake Powell in Utah, at historically low levels.

Satellites reveal extent of groundwater loss

Excerpt: A 14-year drought in the southwestern United States has drained reservoirs such as Nevada's Lake Mead to record lows. But satellite measurements show that the losses are even greater underground.

Excerpt: The result was more than 50 trillion litres, roughly 1.5 more than the maximum capacity of the United States' largest reservoir, Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona. “It was way more than we ever thought,” says study co-author Jay Famiglietti, a water-cycle scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.

Excerpt: Because most irrigation in the Colorado River basin relies on groundwater, agriculture is most likely to suffer as the supply is depleted, the authors say. Rural communities that rely on well water are also at risk, Lund points out, and there are environmental threats, too. Overdrawing groundwater dries up the springs that feed pool ecosystems, stranding endangered species such as the desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius).

Colorado River groundwater's depletion poses threat

Excerpt: Seven Western states that rely on the Colorado River Basin for valuable water are drawing more heavily from groundwater supplies than previously believed, a new study finds, the latest indication that a historic drought is threatening the region’s future access to water.

Excerpt: "We were shocked to see how much water was actually depleted underground," Stephanie Castle, a water specialist at the University of California at Irvine and lead author of the report, said in an interview.

Excerpt: But what surprised scientists was how much groundwater had been making up the difference. More than three quarters of the water lost over the past decade came from underground. Groundwater doesn’t replenish as quickly as surface water, which comes from rain and snow, and the heavier-than-expected usage is straining already limited resources.

Water attorney warns of continuing drought

Excerpt: The Yuma area has extraordinary soil and water rights from the Colorado River to produce lush fields of fresh vegetables and other crops that help feed the nation.

But those legal rights to water might not be worth much if the lingering drought in the Southwest continues, warned a leading local water expert.

Excerpt: According to guidelines worked out in 2007, reductions in apportionments will be imposed when Lake Mead falls below 1,075 feet, with Arizona and Nevada sharing in shortages. Mexico also voluntarily agreed in Minute 319 to accept reduced deliveries. There would be no reductions to California.

Excerpt: He suggests a third option: "People get together now and get really serious about keeping water in the lake. We all need to decide where we stand. We can refuse to consider doing anything differently. Or we see what we can do to impact the results."

County opposes transfer of water rights

Excerpt: The county supervisors voted Wednesday to send a letter of opposition to Congress regarding the transfer of water rights near Wikieup to a copper mine.

Excerpt: Mohave County objected to the transfer of the water rights in 2010, asking for the applications to be denied because diverting water to mining operations would negatively impact water supplies in Mohave County including in the Big Sandy Aquifer and eventually into the Colorado River. The Arizona Department of Water Resources denied the county’s objection in June.

Water war bubbling up between California and Arizona

Excerpt: The year was 1934, and Arizona was convinced that the construction of Parker Dam on the lower Colorado River was merely a plot to enable California to steal its water rights.

Excerpt: The issue still is the Colorado River. Overconsumption and climate change have placed the river in long-term decline. It's never provided the bounty that was expected in 1922, when the initial allocations among the seven states of the Colorado River basin were penciled out as part of the landmark Colorado River Compact, which enabled Hoover Dam to be built, and the shortfall is growing.

Excerpt: That proposal has been pushed by the Glen Canyon Institute, a Salt Lake City-based environmental group, but faces hurdles in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, where residents fear that draining Lake Powell will only allow California, Arizona and Nevada to deprive them of their legal right to the river's flow.

No news is better news than good water news

Excerpt: Our View: Rising water levels at Lake Powell and a wise court ruling improve Arizona's water outlook.

Excerpt: Good water news in drought-stricken Arizona has been rare as rainfall in June.

But when it does arrive, it comes by the bucketful.

Perhaps the best water-related news so far this year is that the Rocky Mountain winter snowpack melting and flowing into the upper basin of the Colorado River is dramatically improving the water level of Lake Powell, the second-largest man-made reservoir in the U.S.

Excerpt: Still, the rise in water level, combined with rosier expectations for 2015, is a huge improvement over predictions as recent as last August, when the conservation services predicted at least two more years of declining levels.

Arizona Cities Could Face Cutbacks in Water

Excerpt: Arizona could be forced to cut water deliveries to its two largest cities unless states that tap the dwindling Colorado River find ways to reduce water consumption and deal with a crippling drought, officials of the state’s canal network said Tuesday.

The warning comes as the federal Bureau of Reclamation forecasts that Lake Mead, a Colorado River reservoir that is the network’s sole water source, will fall next month to a level not seen since the lake was first filled in 1938.

Excerpt: “We’re dealing with a very serious issue, and people need to pay attention to it,” Sharon Megdal, a University of Arizona water expert and board member of the Central Arizona Project, said in an interview. “The possibility of cutbacks of water deliveries to municipalities is higher than we’ve ever thought it was going to be.”

Excerpt: An end to the drought, followed by a few years of heavy rains, could rescue the states. But many now say that climate change would make that a temporary respite. Most scientists believe global warming will make an already arid region even drier in this century.

“We can’t expect to live on releases from the upper basin anymore,” Mr. McCann said. “The states need to come together and make hard choices so we can stem the decline of Lake Mead.”

Hard decisions for long-term water future?

Excerpt: More than century of planning has brought Arizona to this point, starting with the Salt River Project and decades of arduous negotiations that led to a supply of Colorado River water. So have the landmark Groundwater Management Act of 1980 and a system of banking some of the state's Colorado River allotment in aquifers.

Excerpt: If the Colorado River's flow continues to suffer, the U.S. Department of the Interior could declare a shortage as early as 2017. Under the agreement that established the CAP, Arizona's rights to the Colorado would take a hit before California loses a drop, triggering conservation steps that include reducing delivery to irrigated farms that use the majority of Arizona's water supply.

Excerpt: "When Arizonans can unquestionably turn on the tap and get water without question, we're doing our job," she said. "We don't want our customers to have to think about whether there will be water or not."

As for Prescott, the plans to import water have stalled - some believe because of a ballot measure limiting capital outlay to $40 million-voter-approved pieces, while others say it comes down to agreements with SRP or mitigating impacts on the Verde River, among other challenges.

Pay water users to take less

Excerpt: Farmers, cities and power plant operators could soon be paid to cut their use of the Colorado River under a new interstate program aimed at keeping more water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

The four largest communities fed by the Colorado plan to pour millions of dollars into a fund to help farmers and industrial operations pay for efficiency improvements and conservation measures to cut their river water use.

Excerpt: The water authority board signed off on the conservation concept — and the $2 million — on April 17. Entsminger hopes to see a final agreement among the agencies and the federal government within a month or so. The first conservation projects could be funded as early as this fall, he said.

Excerpt: “We’re right on the verge of having to extend all of our launch ramps, but we expect to be able to get through this summer,” Vanover said. “It’s important for people to know that no matter what happens there will still be access to Lake Mead.”

Kingman, Golden Valley use too much water

Excerpt: Water use in Kingman and Golden Valley is outstripping supply, according to hydrologists with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Excerpt: Annual water demand in Golden Valley from the Sacramento Valley Basin exceeded yearly supplies by about 2,400 acre-feet, and annual water demands in Kingman from the Hualapai Basin exceeded yearly supplies by about 5,600 acre-feet, said a USGS report presented to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors Monday.

Excerpt: The onus to resolving the county's water issue rests with the Board of Supervisors, said state Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, who attended Monday's meeting.

Excerpt: The board tasked County Supervisor Mike Hendrix to work with the U.S. Geological Survey to determine what that additional study would specifically require, and to present his findings to the board at a later date.

An Innovative Conservation Fund for the Colorado River

Excerpt: The four largest cities that get their drinking water from the Colorado River are gearing up to pilot an innovative conservation scheme that pays farmers, industries and municipalities to reduce their use of the river’s water.

Excerpt: The fund would pay for voluntary reductions in water use – whether by fallowing farm fields, installing more efficient irrigation systems, recycling industrial supplies, or other means– but the savings would benefit the basin as a whole by increasing reservoir storage and thereby mitigating shortages.

Excerpt: By collaboratively creating an incentive for basin-wide conservation, the big four urban water users and the Bureau of Reclamation have an opportunity to bring more resilience and adaptability to the drought-stricken, overtapped Colorado River.

Colorado River water coming to Arizona

Excerpt: Economists from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business estimated the economic impact of CAP’s 336-mile canal system on the state’s economy. They found a $100 billion annual economic benefit from the river water. The canals provide water supplies to Phoenix and other areas of the state. Without the canals, the Valley would not be able sustain itself or grow. Farms, industrial users — such as semiconductor manufacturers — as well as household users all benefit from the river water.


“Preserving this vital resource is foremost in our minds. The Colorado River is experiencing long-term drought and CAP’s focus is to continue to work diligently with our customers and stakeholders to ensure this resource is available to support the future of our state and Southwest region,” said CAP General Manager David Modeer.

Drought presses Las Vegas to conserve water

Excerpt: Future droughts and a warming climate change could spell trouble for the city's 2 million residents — and its 40 million annual visitors. Those people "better hope nothing goes wrong with the last intake," said water authority spokesman J.C. Davis.

"But if something does go wrong," he added, "we're in the business of making contingency plans."

For officials here, the scenario signifies a formidable job: providing water for the nation's driest city. Las Vegas uses more water per capita than most communities in America — 219 gallons of water per person every day — and charges less for it than many communities.

Excerpt: John Entsminger, the water authority's new general manager, says such seemingly careless spectacles as the elaborate fountains at the Bellagio resort feature recycled water. "The Strip uses only 3% of the region's water but supplies 70% of its economy," he said. "That's not a bad bargain."

Excerpt: Entsminger, the head of the water authority, believes the American Southwest must fight its water crisis together. He said the seven states drawing water from the Colorado River collectively form the world's fifth-largest economy — just behind Germany but ahead of France and Britain.

San Joaquin Valley sinking

Excerpt: Now that bounty is threatened by a crisis of geological proportions: The land is sinking – crippling the region’s irrigation and flood control infrastructure and damaging aquifers that are buffers against climate change.

Nature, though, is not to blame. This problem is self-inflicted, driven by the frontier-style exploitation of the last unregulated resource in California: groundwater.

Excerpt: Today’s drama is only the latest chapter in a long-running saga of sinking. Three generations ago, so much groundwater was pumped from aquifers that half the valley sank like a giant pie crust, sagging 28 feet near Mendota and inflicting damage to irrigation canals, pipelines, bridges, roads and other infrastructure.

Excerpt: “Obviously, nobody wants to be regulated any more than we are,” Michael said. “But I think maybe we have to have somebody step in. People are probably going to be upset that I would say something like that. We have to find ways to protect the resource that we have.

“There are all kinds of surface regulations (for water) and you’ve got this Wild West underneath the ground. The chickens are coming home to roost, unfortunately,” Michael said.

Colorado River Water Managers Plan for Persistent Drought

Excerpt: The severe risks of an extended drought in the Colorado River Basin – a shutdown of hydropower generation, functionally empty lakes, and restrictions on water use – are forcing the basin’s seven states to consider unprecedented changes in how they manage a scarce resource.

Excerpt: “We’ve never had to do this before because we never planned for this degree of low water storage,” Don Ostler, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, an administrative body, told Circle of Blue. “We want to plan for extreme hydrology the likes of which we have never seen.”

Excerpt: “We’re certainly having discussions about existing drought and contingency planning for an ongoing sustained drought,” said Colby Pellegrino, who handles Colorado River issues for Southern Nevada Water Authority, the state’s largest water utility. “But we’re not to a point where we can say what those options will be.”

Arizona’s long-term water future

Excerpt: More than century of planning has brought Arizona to this point, starting with the Salt River Project and decades of arduous negotiations that led to a supply of Colorado River water. So have the landmark Groundwater Management Act of 1980 and a system of banking some of the state’s Colorado River allotment in aquifers.

Excerpt: In January, an Arizona Department of Water Resources report pointed to the potential for a long-term imbalance between available water and demands over the next century. It said that Arizona will need to develop additional water supplies over the next 25 to 100 years to keep pace with growth.

Excerpt: “What we need right now is a deeper understanding by policymakers about what our situation is,” he said. “I want someone who will look at the complex solutions, not the short easy ones.”
Pickard, the CAP board president, said this election year will test which politicians are ready to make Arizona’s water future a priority.
“When Arizonans can unquestionably turn on the tap and get water without question, we’re doing our job,” she said. “We don’t want our customers to have to think about whether there will be water or not.”

Colorado River deluge to bring wetlands back in Mexico

Excerpt: For half a century, the Colorado River’s great dams and the 30 million people who siphon water from the reservoirs behind them have effectively killed the river at Morelos Dam, west of Yuma.

Excerpt: “The river has provided to us — to humans — for many years the water to grow our crops, our food,” said Francisco Zamora, who leads the Sonoran Institute’s efforts to restore the lost forests of the delta. The Tucson nonprofit works on landscape conservation and quality-of-life issues in the West.

An eight-week flood began Sunday with the opening of a gate at Morelos Dam, which normally sends the river sideways into a Mexican canal. It will be a watershed moment for cross-border cooperation on the environment and on an increasingly pinched water supply.

California will tap its water bank, even as Lake Mead shrinks

Excerpt: Punishing drought in California could force that state to make a sizable withdrawal from a virtual water bank in Lake Mead this year, even as the reservoir shrinks closer to an all-time low and an unprecedented shortage declaration.

Excerpt: “Things are so bad in California, unless it starts raining like crazy we are probably going to take another 150,000 to 200,000 acre-feet this year,” said Bill Hasencamp, Metropolitan’s manager of Colorado River resources.

Excerpt: “As soon as it gets wet again in California, we’ll start storing water and putting it in Lake Mead,” Muir said.

Hasencamp said 2011 and 2012 were “big storage years” for Met, with a total of about 330,000 acre-feet of water socked away in the lake.

“We were hoping we could keep that in there,” he said. “But we’re still keeping an account balance. We’re not taking it all out.”

Colorado River Drought Forces a Painful Reckoning for States

Excerpt: The sinuous Colorado River and its slew of man-made reservoirs from the Rockies to southern Arizona are being sapped by 14 years of drought nearly unrivaled in 1,250 years.

Excerpt: But many experts believe the current drought is only the harbinger of a new, drier era in which the Colorado’s flow will be substantially and permanently diminished.

Excerpt: These new realities are forcing a profound reassessment of how the 1,450-mile Colorado, the Southwest’s only major river, can continue to slake the thirst of one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions. Agriculture, from California’s Imperial Valley to Wyoming’s cattle herds, soaks up about three-quarters of its water, and produces 15 percent of the nation’s food. But 40 million people also depend on the river and its tributaries, and their numbers are rising rapidly.

Dry with chance of shortage

Excerpt: There's a better than 50 percent chance of an official water shortage being declared in 2016 for the Lower Colorado River Basin as a result of the drought that has gripped the river's watershed for the last 14 years.

Excerpt: That's if the current trend continues, Daniel Bunk, a hydrologist for the Lower Colorado Region with the the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, told the Colorado River Citizens Forum Wednesday during an update on the status of the Colorado River Basin.

He noted that 2000 to 2013 was the driest 14-year period in more than 100 years of historical record. And based on tree ring studies, it is the fourth or fifth driest period in the past 1,200 years.

Excerpt: If a shortage is declared by the Secretary of the Interior, Arizona would bear by far the biggest impact, according to an agreement in 2007 that established shortage sharing guidelines. Under the guidelines, Arizona, which is allocated 2.8 million acre-feet of Colorado River water a year, would receive 320,000 acre-feet less water. Nevada would receive 13,000 acre-feet less water and Mexico 50,000 acre-feet less. California would not be impacted.

Water summit garners support for water conservation

Excerpt: Population growth, drought and increasing demand are challenging the Colorado River and threatening Western economies and outdoor lifestyles.

"In order to meet those challenges, we have to acknowledge that the current management and current use of the river is unsustainable. We've got to start from that point," said Udall, addressing the first Business of Water Corporate Leaders Summit in Denver, hosted by Protect the Flows, a network of almost 1,000 businesses advocating for protection of the 1,450-mile river.

Excerpt: Every speaker offered concrete strategies for not just protecting water but educating consumers on its value. George Wendt urges the 3,000 people a year who float his OARS rafts down the Colorado River to support conservation. Broomfield's WhiteWave Foods makes sure consumers know its plant-based drinks require 77 percent less water per half gallon than cow milk. MGM Resorts International is fighting to include water conservation in energy-saving metrics that often focus only on reducing carbon impact.

Excerpt: "Conserving the great outdoors is a long-term investment in jobs that can't be outsourced," said Udall, who suggested that a balance between increased conservation and wastewater treatment, expanding storage and recharging groundwater supplies would alleviate pressure on the Colorado River.

Colorado River faces critical snow season

Excerpt: After 14 years of record drought, it will take an unusually wet year — one like the basin saw in 2011 — to stave off the first-ever water shortages on the overdrawn river and slow the decline of its two main reservoirs.

Lake Mead, the source for 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley’s water supply, has seen its surface fall by more than 100 feet since the drought began. Current projections call for it to lose another 25 vertical feet of water and sink to a record low by November 2014.

Excerpt: “This is an alarming trend, and one that we would really like to see come to an end,” said water authority spokesman J.C. Davis. “Even if we have an ‘average’ year on the Colorado this year, Lake Mead is projected to continue falling. In order to make a significant dent, we would need at a minimum something on the order of 150 percent of normal.”

Excerpt: Each lake is now more than half empty, and the combined amount of water left in them is nearing its lowest point since Powell was filled for the first time.

Colorado River Toward Shortage Declaration

Excerpt: Not far from the magnificent canyons of American lore, the Colorado River’s new course is being carved out of figures and formulae. These calculations determine the future for the 40 million rural folks and city dwellers in the Wild West’s desert civilization who use water from the Colorado, as well as for the millions who benefit from its cheap hydroelectric power.

Excerpt: Already there are more claims to water than the river can supply, and Mead and Powell are both less than half full. Even worse, climate experts warn that a warming globe will increase evaporation rates and dial down rainfall. The Bureau of Reclamation, in a landmark study of the river’s supply and demand published last December, forecasted an average 9 percent drop in runoff within the Basin by 2060. At the high end, other studies warn that a decline of 30 percent is possible by mid-century.

Excerpt: As Mead and Powell circle the drain, this chatter will grow stronger. Though a shortage might not immediately change the amount of water used — because of water banks, existing conservation benefits, and groundwater — the greater effect might be psychological, University of Colorado Law School’s Udall argues.

“It’s one thing to talk about hardship and another thing to have to endure it,” he said.

Massive California water transfer to continue

Excerpt: Legally, California is allowed to take 4.4 million acre-feet from the Colorado, but for many years the state sucked more than that. Upstream states didn’t mind, as they weren’t using their entire allocations. But that changed around the millennium, when, as Ed Marston reported in 2001, “the other states, growing larger and thirstier with each passing year, worried that they would never get to use their full apportionments of the Colorado if California's use became institutionalized.”

Excerpt: As uncertain as the future of the Sea is, Colorado River users may have a bigger problem on their hands: over-allocation. Last December, the Bureau of Reclamation released a report predicting water demand will soon outstrip supply, due to drought, climate change and increased growth in the Southwest.

There's no denying issues with Colorado River

Excerpt: Recently, the Colorado has been named America’s Most Endangered River, and for plenty of good reasons. In some places the Colorado River is drained dry, in others its flows are so depleted and manipulated that fish and wildlife are federally listed as “endangered,” and in yet others more dam/diversion/pipeline projects are proposed that would drain the last legally allowed drops of water out of the river.

Excerpt: Even as our populations grow, the climate is changing. We know that drought is likely to be the “new normal” in the Colorado River basin, and scientists tell us that climate change could reduce the amount of water in the Colorado River ecosystem by 9 to 20 percent. Predictions of the famed Lake Mead and Lake Powell being drained dry are a small but real part of this picture — Southern Nevada’s effort to build the “third straw” out of Lake Mead is a clear example of this threat.

Excerpt: The good news is that the federal government has stepped up its efforts to address our endangered river. But now it’s time for Congress to get into the act, too. Congress needs to provide more funding for water conservation programs throughout the basin, needs to support investments to increase the efficiency of water projects that are already built, and needs to provide funding to promote and protect the Colorado River itself.

U.S. and Mexico Sign Major Deal on Colorado River Issues: Delta Restoration, Infrastructure

Excerpt: Senior officials from the United States and Mexico signed a broad five-year agreement on Tuesday that marks renewed cooperation over the Colorado River, a desert lifeline that provides water to at least 30 million people, irrigation to top agricultural counties, and electricity to millions — despite water demands in the last few years rising above the average annual supply.

Excerpt: “That we were able to address all three things makes this truly historic,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after the signing ceremony Tuesday in San Diego. “A year ago, people would have said it was impossible to do, even in the last 20 days. It seemed at times like Humpty Dumpty was falling off the wall. This great team kept him on the wall, and we get to celebrate the birth of a new relationship between the U.S. and Mexico on the Colorado River.”

U.S., Mexico reach pact on Colorado River water sale

Excerpt: After years of sporadic negotiations, U.S. and Mexican officials Tuesday are set to sign a major agreement aimed at improving binational cooperation over the Colorado River.

Excerpt: Under the five-year deal, regional water agencies in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada will purchase a total of nearly 100,000 acre-feet of water from Mexico's share of the Colorado River — enough to cover the needs of 200,000 families for a year.

In exchange, Mexico will receive $10 million to repair damage done to its irrigation canals by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck the Mexicali Valley in 2010.

Excerpt: Under the accord, Mexico will agree to take a lesser amount of water during times of drought and be allowed to store water in Lake Mead — on the Nevada-Arizona border — during times of surplus or when, because of infrastructure problems, it cannot use its entire annual allocation.

Landmark water pact with Mexico

Excerpt: After years of negotiations, the United States and Mexico have struck a deal that could keep more water in Lake Mead and help improve water efficiency and the environment south of the border.

Excerpt: The landmark five-year agreement would allow Mexico to store some of its annual Colorado River allotment in Lake Mead for future use.

Excerpt: For one thing, the lower the lake sinks, the closer it gets to the trigger point for the authority's multibillion-dollar plan to pipe groundwater to Las Vegas from across eastern Nevada.

The surface of the lake now stands at 1,116 feet above sea level. If it drops to 1,075 feet, authority board members will cast their final vote on whether to proceed with the pipeline.

"That project is our protection from catastrophe. It's our safety net," Mulroy said. "As long as we can continue to defer it, we will."

For Farms in the West, Oil Wells Are Thirsty Rivals

Excerpt: A new race for water is rippling through the drought-scorched heartland, pitting farmers against oil and gas interests, driven by new drilling techniques that use powerful streams of water, sand and chemicals to crack the ground and release stores of oil and gas.

Excerpt: A single such well can require five million gallons of water, and energy companies are flocking to water auctions, farm ponds, irrigation ditches and municipal fire hydrants to get what they need.

That thirst is helping to drive an explosion of oil production here, but it is also complicating the long and emotional struggle over who drinks and who does not in the arid and fast-growing West. Farmers and environmental activists say they are worried that deep-pocketed energy companies will have purchase on increasingly scarce water supplies as they drill deep new wells that use the technique of hydraulic fracturing.

Arizona water allocations

Excerpt: The decades of compacts, laws, contracts and regulatory guidelines that are supposed to manage bordering states’ use of the Colorado River have come to be known collectively as the “Law of the River.”

Excerpt: Ninety years after the first agreements were drawn up, and more than 50 years after the Supreme Court set water-use levels for Arizona and its neighbors, demand for Colorado River water continues to grow. But the amount of water flowing in the river, and the allotments of it to different users, remains the same.

Excerpt: Jobs like the large marine industry in Lake Havasu City that builds, services and repairs boats, said Gary Kellogg, president and CEO of the Lake Havasu Partnership for Economic Development.
“The water has a lot of uses out here,” Kellogg said. “We pump it to a lot of different cities, but since we are a tourism-based city, so many of our jobs here rely on the river.”
But of the 2.8 million acre feet of water the state can take from the Colorado River, “the vast majority is used for agriculture,” said Mitch Basefsky, a spokesman for the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.

Navajo Nation Water Rights

Excerpt: If we sound a little tentative on the subject, it's because of the mixed messages that were coming from all over the Rez as soon as U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl introduced the Little Colorado River settlement bill in February.
Now that the Navajo Nation Council has voted to oppose the bill as well as the underlying settlement, it's uncertain how or if any of the agreement's terms can be salvaged.

Excerpt: Flagstaff had a stake in the settlement because it would have legalized, without threat of future tribal litigation, its current use of Lake Mary and C-Aquifer wells inside the city limits for drinking water.
The two tribes contend they have historic rights to all groundwater and river water in the region, and without a settlement, Flagstaff could be back in court trying to defend its own historic claims to water inside its boundaries.

Excerpt: The tribes have a bird in the hand right now if they will only close their fist around it. Leave it open too much longer -- Kyl retires after this year -- and they will have ceded the issue back to unelected lawyers and the courts, which is not where such important issues should be decided.