Arizona Water Issues



Arizona water issues impact all residents of the state... and surrounding states. Arizona's water supply is of vital importance.

Water not only sustains life, it makes possible an enjoyable quality of life as it sustains the regional economy. The strategic analysis report presented here speaks to these issues.



U.S., Mexico: The Decline of the Colorado River


A ring of bleached sandstone caused by low water levels during a six-year drought surrounds Lake Powell, a Colorado River reservoir near Page, ArizonaDavid McNew/Getty Images



An amendment to a standing water treaty between the United States and Mexico has received publicity over the past six months as an example of progress in water sharing agreements. But the amendment, called Minute 319, is simply a glimpse into ongoing mismanagement of the Colorado River on the U.S. side of the border. Over-allocation of the river's waters 90 years ago combined with increasing populations and economic growth in the river basin have created circumstances in which conservation efforts -- no matter how organized -- could be too little to overcome the projected water deficit that the Colorado River Basin will face in the next 20 years.


In 1922, the seven U.S. states in the Colorado River Basin established a compact to distribute the resources of the river. A border between the Upper and Lower basins was defined at Lees Ferry, Ariz. The Upper Basin (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico) was allocated 9.25 billion cubic meters a year, and the Lower Basin (Arizona, California and Nevada) was allotted 10.45 billion cubic meters. Mexico was allowed an unspecified amount, which in 1944 was defined as 1.85 billion cubic meters a year. The Upper and Lower basins -- managed as separate organizations under the supervision of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation -- divided their allocated water among the states in their jurisdictions. Numerous disputes arose, especially in the Lower Basin, regarding proper division of the water resources. But the use of (and disputes over) the Colorado River began long before these treaties.

Map - Colorado River Basin

As the United States' territory expanded to the west, the Colorado River briefly was considered a portal to the isolated frontier of the southwestern United States, since it was often cheaper to take a longer path via water to transport goods and people in the early 19th century. There was a short-lived effort to develop the Colorado River as the "Mississippi of the West." While places like Yuma, Ariz., became military and trading outposts, the geography and erratic flow of the Colorado made the river ultimately unsuitable for mass transportation. Navigating the river often required maneuvering around exposed sand banks and through shallow waters. The advent of the railroad ended the need for river transport in the region. Shortly thereafter, large and ambitious management projects, including the Hoover Dam, became the river's main purpose.

Irrigation along the river started expanding in the second half of the 19th century, and agriculture still consumes more water from the Colorado than any other sector. Large-scale manipulation of the river began in the early 20th century, and now there are more than 20 major dams along the Colorado River, along with reservoirs such as Lake Powell and Lake Mead, and large canals that bring water to areas of the Imperial and Coachella valleys in southern California for irrigation and municipal supplies. User priority on the Colorado River is determined by the first "useful purposing" of the water. For example, the irrigated agriculture in California has priority over some municipal water supplies for Phoenix, Ariz.

Inadequate Supply and Increasing Demand

When the original total allocation of the river was set in the 1920s, it was far above regional consumption. But it was also more than the river could supply in the long term. The river was divided based on an estimated annual flow of roughly 21 billion cubic meters per year. More recent studies have indicated that the 20th century, and especially the 1920s, was a time of above-normal flows. These studies indicate that the long-term average of flow is closer to 18 billion cubic meters, with yearly flows ranging anywhere from roughly 6 billion cubic meters to nearly 25 billion cubic meters. As utilization has increased, the deficit between flow and allocation has become more apparent.

Total allocations of river resources for the Upper and Lower basins and Mexico plus water lost to evaporation adds up to more than 21 billion cubic meters per year. Currently, the Upper Basin does not use the full portion of its allocation, and large reservoirs along the river can help meet the demand of the Lower Basin. Populations in the region are expected to increase; in some states, the population could double by 2030. A study released at the end of 2012 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicted a possible shortage of 3 billion cubic meters by 2035.

The Colorado River provides water for irrigation of roughly 15 percent of the crops in the United States, including vegetables, fruits, cotton, alfalfa and hay. It also provides municipal water supplies for large cities, such as Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas, accounting for more than half of the water supply in many of these areas. Minute 319, signed in November 2012, gives Mexico a small amount of additional water in an attempt to restore the delta region. However, the macroeconomic impact on Mexico is minimal, since agriculture accounts for the majority of the river's use in Mexico but only about 3 percent of the gross domestic product of the Baja Norte province.

There is an imbalance of power along the international border. The United States controls the headwaters of the Colorado River and also has a greater macroeconomic interest in maintaining the supply of water from the river. This can make individual amendments of the 1944 Treaty somewhat misleading. Because of the erratic nature of the river, the treaty effectively promises more water than the river can provide each year. Cooperation in conservation efforts and in finding alternative water sources on the U.S. side of the border, not treaty amendments, will become increasingly important as regional water use increases over the coming decades.

Conservation Efforts Along the Colorado

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation oversees the whole river, but the management of each basin is separate. Additionally, within each basin, there are separate state management agencies and, within each state, separate regional management agencies. Given the number of participants, reaching agreements on the best method of conservation or the best alternative source of water is difficult. There are ongoing efforts at conservation, including lining canals to reduce seepage and programs to limit municipal water use. However, there is no basin-wide coordination. In a 2012 report, the Bureau of Reclamation compiled a list of suggested projects but stopped short of recommending a course of action.

A similar report released in 2008 listed 12 general options including desalinization, vegetation management (elimination of water-intensive or invasive plants), water reuse, reduced use by power plants and joint management through water banking (water is stored either in reservoirs or in underground aquifers to use when needed). Various sources of water imports from other river basins or even icebergs are proposed as options, as is weather modification by seeding clouds in the Upper Basin. Implementation of all these options would result in an extra 5 billion cubic meters of water a year at most, which could erase the predicted deficit. However, this amount is unlikely, as it assumes maximum output from each technique and also assumes the implementation of all proposed methods, many of which are controversial either politically or environmentally and some of which are economically unviable. Additionally, many of the methods would take years to fully implement and produce their maximum capacity. Even then, a more reasonable estimate of conservation capacity would likely be closer to 1 billion-2 billion cubic meters, which would fall short of the projected deficit in 2035.

The Potential for New Disputes

Conflict over water can arise when there are competing interests for limited resources. This is seen throughout the world with rivers that traverse borders in places like Central Asia and North Africa. For the Colorado River, the U.S.-Mexico border is likely less relevant to the competition for the river's resources than the artificial border drawn at Lees Ferry.

Aside from growing populations, increased energy production from unconventional hydrocarbon sources in the Upper Basin has the potential to increase consumption. While this amount will likely be small compared to overall allocations, it emphasizes the value of water to the Upper Basin. Real or perceived threats to the Upper Basin's surplus of water could be seen as threats to economic growth in the region. At the same time, further water shortages could limit the potential for economic growth in the Lower Basin -- a situation that would only be exacerbated by growing populations.

While necessary, conservation efforts and the search for alternative sources likely will not be able to make up for the predicted shortage. Amendments to the original treaty typically have been issued to address symptomatic problems. However, the core problem remains: More water is promised to river users than is available on average. While this problem has not come to a head yet, there may come a time when regional growth overtakes conservation efforts. It is then that renegotiation of the treaty with a more realistic view of the river's volume will become necessary. Any renegotiation will be filled with conflict, but most of that likely will be contained in the United States

"U.S., Mexico: The Decline of the Colorado River is republished with permission of Stratfor."



Local Business


Arizona Water Issues News and Information

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November 16, 2014

ASU News


ASU launches new center for water policy


The Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy was officially launched Nov. 14, made possible by a $1 million gift from the Morrison family, with a mission to seek consensus for wise water policy and lasting solutions for Arizona.

Named after retired U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, who will lend both his expertise as a water attorney and leadership as a statesman, the Kyl Center will convene a diversity of stakeholders to collaboratively address many of the state’s water challenges – just as Arizona leaders successfully did in decades past.

“Arizona is going to face some very difficult challenges in the next several years relating to our water,” Kyl said. “God isn't making any more of it, and so we have to take of what we have and find out the best way to be good stewards so our children, grandchildren and all who follow us have a bright future like we've had."

The Kyl Center will serve as a forum for public evaluation and public education, as well as an alternative to litigation for a more expeditious resolution of outstanding issues. It all starts with a "serious conversation" and a commitment to finding solutions, Kyl said.

The center will not be a competitor of existing water centers or efforts, but rather a collaborator and partner in finding new ways to address new challenges for a growing state and region, Kyl said. A job search is underway for a full-time director of the Kyl Center, with Thom Reilly, Morrison Institute director; Grady Gammage, Jr., senior research fellow; Richard Morrison, Morrison Institute advisory board chairman; and an advisory board of water experts from throughout the state providing leadership in the meantime.

Whenever and wherever possible, we must look beyond conflict and the courts,” Morrison said. “We’ve seen where that leads us. Instead, we must look to collaboration and, in some cases, agree to compromise. Ultimately, it must be Arizonans who solve Arizona’s problems by working together.”

With Kyl’s participation, Arizona water experts have already met on two occasions this fall to determine short-term, mid-term and long-term priorities for Arizona’s water future. Although some issues will likely be resolved in court, those in attendance agreed the state would be better off finding common ground rather than settling for prolonged conflict.

Details of the priorities can be found at

“We are exited to house the Kyl Center for Water Policy,” Reilly said. “This solutions-oriented center has a real opportunity to resolve many outstanding water conflicts without getting tied up in the courts. The center also will have an education component so the public can understand there are choices to be made regarding Arizona’s most precious resource.”

As part of its educational mission, the center will be devising a “Water Index” to gauge a region or area’s water health according to certain metrics such as:

• surface water availability
• ground water reserves
• precipitation and snow pack
• population and growth rate
• urban and industry use versus agricultural use
• compacts and court rulings
• conservation efforts
• new water usage policies
• emergency contingency plans and other options

This at-a-glance tool will be helpful for the general public and others to more easily understand the numerous complexities and changing dynamics of water, Reilly said.

The center will seek input from the public, public utilities, private water companies, urban and rural interests, agriculture, conservationists, environmentalists, recreationists, industry and tribes.

“Consensus cannot be reached any other way,” Morrison noted.

An Arizona State University resource, the Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan center for research, analysis and public outreach regarding Arizona’s most pressing issues. The Morrison Institute is part of the ASU College of Public Programs.



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November 6, 2014



High-flow release at Glen Canyon Dam will be conducted Nov. 10-14



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November 3, 2014

Jonathan DuHammel


Forest thinning may increase runoff and supplement our water supply


Thinning of southwestern forests, partly to curb devastating forest fires, has long been a controversial subject. In general, forest thinning has been opposed by environmental groups.

Now, however, a new study (“Effects of Climate Variability and Accelerated Forest Thinning on Watershed-Scale Runoff in Southwestern USA Ponderosa Pine Forests” published October 22, 2014) conducted by The Nature Conservancy and Northern Arizona University recommends accelerated forest thinning by mechanical means and controlled burns in central and northern Arizona forests. The study estimates that such thinning will increase runoff by about 20 percent, add to our water supply, and make forests more resilient. You can read the entire study here.



The study abstract reads:

The recent mortality of up to 20% of forests and woodlands in the southwestern United States, along with declining stream flows and projected future water shortages, heightens the need to understand how management practices can enhance forest resilience and functioning under unprecedented scales of drought and wildfire. To address this challenge, a combination of mechanical thinning and fire treatments are planned for 238,000 hectares (588,000 acres) of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests across central Arizona, USA. Mechanical thinning can increase runoff at fine scales, as well as reduce fire risk and tree water stress during drought, but the effects of this practice have not been studied at scales commensurate with recent forest disturbances or under a highly variable climate. Modifying a historical runoff model, we constructed scenarios to estimate increases in runoff from thinning ponderosa pine at the landscape and watershed scales based on driving variables: pace, extent and intensity of forest treatments and variability in winter precipitation. We found that runoff on thinned forests was about 20% greater than unthinned forests, regardless of whether treatments occurred in a drought or pluvial period. The magnitude of this increase is similar to observed declines in snowpack for the region, suggesting that accelerated thinning may lessen runoff losses due to warming effects. Gains in runoff were temporary (six years after treatment) and modest when compared to mean annual runoff from the study watersheds (0–3%). Nonetheless gains observed during drought periods could play a role in augmenting river flows on a seasonal basis, improving conditions for water-dependent natural resources, as well as benefit water supplies for downstream communities. Results of this study and others suggest that accelerated forest thinning at large scales could improve the water balance and resilience of forests and sustain the ecosystem services they provide.

The study also notes that in “ponderosa pine forests of central Arizona, stand densities range from 2 to 44 times greater than during pre-settlement conditions” and all that extra foliage sucks up water and loses it through evapotranspiration, thereby decreasing the availability of water for downstream users and wildlife.

Congress has authorized a program called the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) that will accelerate the use of mechanical thinning and prescribed burns across four national forests, treating 238,000 ha (588,000 acres) in the first analysis area over the next 10 years. That program should be expanded.



November 2, 2014

Cronkite News Service


Officials responding to high E. coli levels in scenic Greenlee County river



By Stephen Hamway

CLIFTON – Since the end of the 19th century, when large-scale mining came to what is now Greenlee County, the San Francisco River has been this area’s lifeblood.

One of the 10 fastest-flowing rivers in the United States, the San Francisco slices through canyons and forests and has provided towns with everything from access to supplies from the East when the region was first settled to drinking water and recreation today.

“When you live on the river, it becomes such a big part of your life,” said Deborah Mendelsohn, one of the founders of Friends of the Frisco, a volunteer environmental group dedicated to protecting the San Francisco River.

Recently, however, the river has become a source of concern for the community. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, which monitors rivers across the state, determined that the stretch of the San Francisco River that runs through Greenlee County had levels of E. coli bacteria that exceeded the EPA’s standard.

A 2012 study by the Gila Watershed Partnership, with support from the EPA and ADEQ, pointed to human contamination as a big part of the problem and noted a lack of available restrooms along the San Francisco River and the Blue River, a tributary. It notes that nine sites along the San Francisco River and two on the Blue River see heavy recreational use but have no facilities.

“Before we did our research, there was an assumption that cattle were responsible,” said Mendelsohn, the study’s primary author. “But as it turned out, the more important portion of the contamination was human.”

There have been no confirmed human cases of E. coli, though Mendelsohn said she’s heard about people who have become ill after visiting the river. Ingesting contaminated water can lead to stomach aches, fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

Morteza Abbaszadegan, professor of environmental engineering at Arizona State University, said E. coli is treated as a marker for fecal contamination that can contribute to more serious diseases including giardia, hepatitis A and Salmonella poisoning.

Part of the challenge in adding restrooms along the river is money. The section of the river by Clifton and the nearby town of Duncan is managed by the county, and Phil Ronnerud, county engineer for Greenlee, said that funds are tight.

“When you compete with everything else in government, this isn’t one of the things that rises to the top,” Ronnerud said.

Nevertheless, the county, in conjunction with ADEQ and the Gila Watershed Partnership, is working on two pairs of public bathrooms along the river that Ronnerud hopes will improve the quality of the water.

“From the stuff left on the ground by the river, it was obvious what we needed,” he said.

Ronnerud said that sites where restrooms could be added along the river were limited due to land north of town being privately owned.

The San Francisco River represents an opportunity for a county that is often marginalized. Greenlee County is far from the population centers of Phoenix and Tucson, and the river primarily provides a small-scale recreation area for locals, rather than an attraction for visitors around the state.

“This is the miracle of Greenlee County,” Mendelsohn said. “The places are just drop-dead gorgeous, and very often there’s no one else there.”

However, there are signs that this is slowly changing. For a county – the least populous in Arizona – that has historically relied on copper mining as its chief economic driver, drawing tourists to the San Francisco River has become a priority.

“The watershed, particularly the San Francisco River, has potential to help stabilize the local economy through thoughtfully developed tourism and better managed recreation,” Mendelsohn’s report reads.

Steve Eady, executive director of the Gila Watershed Partnership, said the community has invested in birding trails in order to better appeal to birdwatchers across the Southwest.

“Residents around Greenlee County go out to the river on weekends and fish and camp,” Eady said. “We would like to see that sort of thing happen outside the community.”

The San Francisco River still faces challenges. In addition to the E. coli issue, Eady said that the area has a large population of non-native tamarisks, also known as salt cedar, which crowd out native plants.

The Gila Watershed Partnership is working on a five-year plan to remove the tamarisks.

Until then, the bathrooms, which Ronnerud estimates will be completed within the next two months, should make the river more user friendly for visitors and community members alike.

“I envision it as an asset to the community, where it meets multiple purposes in the community,” he said. “Not only for wildlife, but for people too, because people need those spaces.”

About this project:
About this project:


Access Across Arizona is an initiative to increase news coverage in Arizona communities often underreported by mainstream news media. Using advanced cellular broadcast technology, Cronkite News students travel to Arizona’s rural communities to produce broadcast, digital and live-television reports via Arizona PBS. This technology was made possible by a grant from the ASU Foundation and Women & Philanthropy.

E. coli:

• The bacterium known as E. coli is harmless and necessary in the digestive systems of most mammals, including humans. Just a few strains are dangerous to humans when ingested.

• Symptoms from E. coli are generally mild but can include bloody diarrhea and occasionally a mild fever.

• In addition to contaminated rivers and lakes, people can get E. coli from undercooked meat or dirty vegetables.

• While not serious on its own, E. coli contamination in water can be a sign of more serious health issues, including giardia




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October 25, 2014



Advisory Panel on Emerging Contaminants (APEC)


photoThe Advisory Panel on Emerging Contaminants (APEC) was formed by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to advise ADEQ and water utilities on matters concerning unregulated chemicals and pathogens in water. APEC will address chemicals and pathogens of emerging concern that threaten the continued safety of water like chemicals from pharmaceuticals and personal care products and pathogens like the Naegleria parasite, Legionella bacterium and Hepatitis A virus. The panel will provide a forum for open discussion, prioritization, and planning related to emerging contaminant issues of critical interest to the safe use of drinking water, reclaimed water, and recycled water in Arizona.

APEC Mission Statement

The mission of the Advisory Panel on Emerging Contaminants shall be to:

  1. Provide guidance on identifying and managing unregulated chemical and microbial contaminants in Arizona’s water so as to minimize risk to human health and the environment;
  2. Identify research opportunities and funding mechanisms to improve our understanding of emerging contaminant issues;
  3. Provide guidance on effectively communicating issues of unregulated chemical and microbial contaminants to the citizens of Arizona;
  4. Seek to become an influential voice for addressing unregulated chemical and microbial contaminants on a statewide basis and contributing to the national discussion.

Read more



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October 20, 2014



EPA Makes Preliminary Determination to Regulate Strontium in Drinking Water  


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made a preliminary determination to regulate strontium in the nation's drinking water. Strontium is a naturally occurring element that, at elevated levels, can impact bone strength in people who do not consume enough calcium.

A regulatory determination is a formal decision on whether EPA should initiate a rulemaking process to regulate a specific contaminant. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires that every five years, EPA develop a contaminant candidate list and then make a regulatory determination for at least five contaminants on the list.  

Based on available information, the agency has initially determined that strontium has adverse health effects. Strontium replaces calcium in bone, affecting skeletal development. Although strontium affects all life stages, infants, children, and adolescents are of particular concern because their bones are developing. Strontium has been detected in 99 percent of public water systems and at levels of concern in 7 percent of public water systems in the country.

Four other contaminants (dimethoate, 1,3dinitrobenzene, terbufos, and terbufos sulfone) are either not found, or are found at low levels of occurrence in public water systems, thus requiring no regulation at this time.  

These determinations are preliminary. EPA will evaluate public feedback following a 60-day public comment period and determine whether to issue a final determination to regulate strontium. If EPA makes such a determination, the Agency will begin the process of developing a proposed rule, with hopes of publishing the final regulatory determinations in 2015.

For more information, please visit: .



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October 8, 2014

Department of the Interior


U.S. Department of the Interior and Western municipal water suppliers developing water conservation projects as part of a landmark collaborative agreement


Basin municipalities and federal government take action to protect the Colorado River


Faced with the increasing probability of shortage on the Colorado River, municipal water providers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado, and the Bureau of Reclamation are implementing a landmark Colorado River System Conservation program. Beginning today, Reclamation is soliciting water conservation project proposals from Colorado River entitlement holders in Arizona, California, and Nevada. At a later date, water users in the Upper Basin will be invited to participate in this unique agreement. Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Southern Nevada Water Authority and Reclamation are providing up to $11 million to fund new Colorado River water conservation projects. The projects are intended to demonstrate the viability of cooperative, voluntary projects to reduce demand for Colorado River water. The program is soliciting project proposals from agriculture, and municipal and industrial Colorado River water entitlement holders. “This partnership demonstrates our commitment to find solutions in meeting the future challenges we face in water supply and demand,” said Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Regional Director Terry Fulp. “Our goal is to put in place a suite of proactive, voluntary measures that will reduce our risk of reaching critical reservoir levels. This pilot program is a good first step toward reaching that goal and, depending upon its success, could be expanded in the future.” For more than a decade, a severe drought unprecedented in the last 100 years has gripped the Colorado River, reducing water levels in storage reservoirs throughout the Basin and increasing the risk of falling to critically low water levels. In July, reservoir levels in Lake Mead dipped to the lowest level since Hoover Dam was filled in 1937. “A decade ago, municipal and agricultural agencies in California came together to help the state permanently reduce its use of Colorado River water. The goal of this latest effort is to develop new basin-wide partnerships to expand conservation activities during this historic drought for the benefit of all Colorado River water users,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. "With shortage looming on the Colorado River, CAP, with its partners, is taking immediate steps to protect Arizona's Colorado River supply. The goal of this unique program is to develop new conservation programs from municipal, industrial, and agricultural water users from across the seven states which share the river," said Pam Pickard, Board President, Central Arizona Project. "The program saves water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell for the benefit of all Colorado River water users and promotes a healthy river system." All water conserved under this program will stay in the river system, helping to boost the declining reservoir levels and protecting the health of the entire river system. The municipal agencies and the federal government agree that collaborative action is needed now, to reduce the risk to water supplies, hydropower production, water quality, agricultural output, and recreation and environmental resources across the entire Colorado River basin. The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to nearly 40 million people for municipal use, and the combined metropolitan areas served by the Colorado River represent the world’s 12th largest economy, generating more than $1.7 trillion in Gross Metropolitan Product per year. This first call for proposals is for Lower Basin parties. Upper Basin proposals will be requested in the future. “We are pleased to see the momentum established in the lower basin. We look forward to a similar process starting soon in the upper basin with our partners along the Colorado River, including The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado River District, Southwestern Water Conservation District, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited. Together, we will identify and fund pilot programs that demonstrate the viability of cooperative, voluntary compensated means to reduce water demand," said Jim Lochhead, CEO Denver Water. Reclamation is currently requesting project proposals for 2015 and 2016 funding allocations. The due date for the responses to the solicitation is November 17, 2014. Following the two-year period, Reclamation and the municipal agencies will evaluate the effectiveness of the conservation projects funded by this program and determine if the successful programs could be expanded or extended to provide even greater protection for the Colorado River system. "Managing the Colorado River requires a cooperative and concerted effort between diverse stakeholders, and this pilot program furthers that collaboration and provides another tool we can use in response to the drought,” said John Entsminger, General Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority. “This program is the mechanism for developing a wide array of adaptable and scalable conservation projects to provide real benefit to the overall river system.”



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October 7, 2014

Arizona Daily Independent


Western Governors denied true consultation in USFS water proposal


Western Governors have submitted comments to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) about its proposed directive on groundwater resource management. The members of the Association argue that the measure could have significant implications for Western states and their groundwater resources and because they have unique understanding of these needs, states are in the best position to manage the water within their borders.

According to the USFS the directive is needed in order to “establish a consistent approach for addressing both surface and groundwater issues that appropriately protects water resources, recognizes existing water uses, and responds to the growing societal need for high-quality water supplies.”

Read more



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September 30, 2014

Phoenix Business Journal


SRP faces legal challenge over dam permits


Salt River Project is in a legal fight with a group of farmers and landowners over water permits for five Arizona dams built in the 1920s and 1940s.

The legal tussle centers around the legality of water permits granted by the state of the Arizona to the utility for those dams and reservoir along the Salt and Verde rivers.

Read more



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September 28, 2014



Arizona readying long-term plan on water


Arizona has a long history of meeting the challenges of developing water supplies necessary to live and thrive in this arid land.

Ingenuity, innovation and investment, coupled with widespread, dedicated support from a coalition of water users, elected officials, community, tribal, and business leaders, have provided the resilient, sustainable water portfolio we enjoy the benefit of today. The value of these investments, many developed with significant support from the federal government, have been demonstrated by how well the majority of Arizonans have weathered the sustained drought that has gripped the state and the Colorado River Basin for the past 15 years.

Read more



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September 11, 2014

Arizona Daily Independent


House stops EPA water grab with Overreach Protection Act



The U.S. House voted on H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, on Tuesday. H.R. 5078 successfully passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 262-152. 

The bill prevents the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from expanding their regulatory jurisdiction over ponds, streams, and ditches currently regulated by the states

Read more



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September 10, 2014

ABC News


House Votes to Block EPA Water Rules


The Republican-controlled House on Tuesday approved a bill to block the Obama administration from implementing a rule that asserts regulatory authority over many of the nation's streams and wetlands — an action that critics call a classic Washington overreach.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule that it says will clarify which streams and waterways are shielded from development under the Clean Water Act, an issue that remains in dispute even after two U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Agriculture groups and farm-state politicians call the proposed rule a power grab that would allow the government to dictate what farmers can do on their own land

Read more



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August 28, 2014

Department of the Interior


Interior, USDA Partnership Protects and Restores Important Central Arizona Watershed



Restoration of C.C. Cragin Reservoir provides next step in Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership


PAYSON, AZ – Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor and Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie joined state, local and private partners today to mark the signing of a new joint watershed restoration agreement for C.C. Cragin Reservoir in Central Arizona. The agreement is a pilot project of the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, aimed at reducing the risks of costly wildfires and their impact on western watersheds as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

"This agreement reflects our commitment to work with state and local partners in restoring and improving the health and resiliency of priority watersheds in Central Arizona," Deputy Secretary Connor said. "Restoration activities and proactive planning help minimize the impacts of the hotter and longer wildfire seasons on western reservoirs and other critical infrastructure, and help water managers avoid costly repairs in the future."

"USDA and the Obama Administration are working with partners across the country to restore the health of our forests and watersheds across public and private lands," Under Secretary Bonnie said. "Given longer fire seasons and increased fuel loads in our forests, increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration is critical to reducing the threat of catastrophic fire and protecting watersheds."

This new partnership joins the Salt River Project, National Forest Foundation, City of Payson, Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service in collaborative efforts to assess and implement treatments that protect the municipal water supply and minimize wildfire and flood risks. Potential projects include forest thinning, prescribed fire, tree planting, riparian vegetation improvements, stream, spring and channel restoration and other forest and watershed health improvements on National Forest System lands within the area.

The partners will develop a collaborative five-year action plan specifying the treatment zones and planned restoration and protection activities, as well as accomplishment goals and funding commitments.

Deputy Secretary Connor and Under Secretary Bonnie were joined by Payson Mayor Kenny Evans, Salt River Project Deputy General Manager John Sullivan and National Forest Foundation's Colorado Program Director Marcus Selig.

Since 2002, three large fires have threatened the watersheds that contribute to C.C. Cragin Reservoir, burning more than 10,000 acres. The location of these fires was of great concern due to their potential to quickly progress through a large part of the watersheds. There have been several small fires near C.C. Cragin Reservoir itself, including one last year that burned 40 acres and one this year burning close to ten acres.

The Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership was formally established in July 2013 by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Its goal is to restore forest and watershed health, and proactively plan for post-wildfire responses to protect municipal and agricultural water supplies. Flows of sediment, debris and ash into streams and rivers after wildfires can damage water quality and often require costly emergency measures at treatment plants to repair damage to habitat, reservoirs and facilities. Restoration projects aim to maintain reliable, clean and sustainable water supplies in the West by reducing wildfire risk through forest thinning, prescribed fire and other forest health treatments, minimizing post-wildfire erosion and sedimentation and restoring areas that are currently recovering from past wildfires through tree planting and other habitat improvements.

Interior and USDA are working with state and local stakeholders on five additional pilots across the West, including:

● Colorado-Big Thompson Headwaters in Colorado;
● Boise River Reservoir Partnership in Idaho;
● Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region in California;
● Yakima Basin in Washington State; and
● Hungry Horse Reservoir/Flathead River in Montana.

C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir, part of the Salt River Project since 2005 when the Arizona Water Settlements Act was implemented, is part of a system of reservoirs in two watersheds encompassing 8.4 million acres. It impounds water from East Clear Creek, a tributary to Clear Creek and the Little Colorado River. Virtually all of the land surrounding the reservoir is owned by the USDA Forest Service. The Reservoir and Dam are owned by Reclamation, but operated by the Salt River Project.



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August 13, 2014

Bureau of Reclamation


2015 Lake Powell Water Release to Lake Mead Will Increase


BOULDER CITY, Nev. – Based on the August 24-Month Study, which is the Bureau of Reclamation’s monthly operational study, the water release from Lake Powell to Lake Mead for water year 2015 will be 8.23 million acre-feet (maf). This is an increase from the 2014 release of 7.48 maf, which was the lowest release since Lake Powell filled in the 1960s.

Based on the August 24-Month Study, Lake Mead will operate under normal conditions in calendar year 2015, with water users in the Lower Colorado River Basin and Mexico receiving their full water orders.

The August 24-Month Study projections are used in accordance with the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead (2007 Interim Guidelines) to determine the amount of water released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead for each water year (October 1 to September 30).

The 2007 Interim Guidelines allow water managers to plan ahead for varying Colorado River reservoir levels, with a greater degree of certainty about annual water deliveries. The 2007 Interim Guidelines also define the reservoir levels that would trigger delivery shortages and specify the reduced delivery amounts in the Lower Colorado River Basin.

The Upper Colorado River Basin runoff in 2014 was 94% of average, compared to only 47% in 2013 and 45% in 2012. Despite this near-average runoff, Lake Mead is currently at elevation 1,080 feet, its lowest elevation since the lake filled in the 1930s, due to the 15-year drought that began in 2000.

Under the 2007 Interim Guidelines, another review of the conditions at Lake Powell and Lake Mead will occur in April 2015. Based on an analysis of those projections in the April 24-Month Study, Lake Powell’s water releases could be increased to 9.0 maf for water year 2015.

Despite a greater release of 8.23 maf from Lake Powell, the elevation of Lake Mead is projected to continue to decrease in 2015. Currently the longer-term projections from Reclamation’s hydrologic models show the first chance of reduced water deliveries in the Lower Basin in 2016. These updated projections will be available later in August.

The August 24-Month Study was published on August 13 and is available on the Reclamation website for the Lower Colorado Region at



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June 26, 2014

Arizona Daily Independent


Forest Service, Reclamation refuse to attend “Soak Up Water Authority” hearing


In the West, water is power, and the Obama administration used its power reject an invitation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S. Forest Service) and Bureau of Reclamation by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee Water and Power to testify and answer questions regarding newly proposed federal regulations. The Committee held a oversight hearing on “New Federal Schemes to Soak Up Water Authority: Impacts on States, Water Users, Recreation, and Job’s.” 

The hearing examined recent actions by the Obama Administration to turn over longstanding water rights and eliminate multiple land and water uses on and off federal lands. 

The proposed “Waters of the U.S.” regulation and the U.S. Forest Service’s Groundwater Directive are additional measures proposed by the...

Read more



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June 24, 2014

Arizona Daily Sun


Powell pipeline partners balking



Local government officials are at a turning point in their pipe dream of pumping water from Lake Powell to communities across northern Arizona.

Coconino County and its cities, together with the region’s tribal governments involved in the partnership, must come up with $1.95 million if they want to advance the study enough to know how much the pipeline would cost. All that would be left at that point would be the environmental impact study, which is the most costly portion

Read more



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June 22, 2014

SoFA Staff


Fears of EPA ‘land grab’ create groundswell against water rule


An article recently published in The Hill's online edition examines the extensive Congressional opposition to the new rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, known as the “Waters of the United States” rule.

Environmental groups and other Progressive supporters of the proposed new rule are said to be gearing up to advocate for adoption of the rule following the deadline for comments of October 20, 2014.

Advocates and opponents of the proposed rule urge citizens to submit comments.

Excerpt from The Hill article...

Lawmakers are up in arms over an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal that they fear could give federal officials expansive new powers over private property and farmland.

The EPA is seeking to redefine what bodies of water fall under the agency’s jurisdiction for controlling pollution. The scope of the final Clean Water Act (CWA) rule is of critical importance, as any area covered would require a federal permit for certain activities.

The rule is facing a groundswell of opposition from lawmakers, who fear the EPA is engaged in a “land grab” that could stop farmers and others from building fences, digging ditches or draining ponds.

More than 260 lawmakers, spanning both chambers and parties, have come out against the EPA’s action.

Read more



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June 15, 2014

Verde Independent


Water leaders discuss unmet needs


Water experts at northern Arizona's annual Legislative Water Briefing Thursday in Prescott Valley discussed the issues surrounding efforts to provide enough water for residents. Numerous state, tribal, county and municipal officials attended...


...Coconino Plateau communities are seriously considering their own Colorado River pipeline, but they don't know how they will pay for the next phase of a detailed Bureau of Reclamation appraisal study, let alone a pipeline. Money for water infrastructure is a major problem across the region, said Coconino County Supervisor Mandy Metzger, chair of the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council.

Read more



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June 13, 2014

Department of the Interior


Interior Announces Nearly $20 Million in WaterSMART Funding for Water and Energy Efficiency Projects and River Basin Studies at Western Governors’ Annual Meeting


Funding will help communities in West define options for meeting future water demands, conserve water in face of climate change, and increase the use of renewable energy



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May 29, 2014

Arizona Daily Sun


Flagstaff City Council puts off Powell pipeline study


Flagstaff City Council is hedging its bets on paying more than $800,000 for its share of a study of a water pipeline from the Colorado River to Flagstaff and the Navajo/Hopi nations. On Tuesday, it put off a decision on continued funding for the study until July.

City Water Resources Manager Erin Young told Council that a lack of federal funding has put the study in limbo.

The pipeline would bring much-needed water to the western half of the Navajo and Hopi nations. Those areas have little water and what water is available is often contaminated by uranium, natural gas and arsenic.

Read more



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May 16, 2014

Western Governors' Association


WGA appeals 'water transfers ruling" that would limit states' rights, add expense to Western water


The West would be uninhabitable if not for engineering marvels that bring water from near and far to agricultural and urban areas. But a recent court ruling would create unneeded regulatory hurdles that would make these critical water transfers difficult to accomplish and prohibitively expensive.

That's why the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) and the Western States Water Council are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to appeal a recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that vacated and remanded the “water transfers rule.”

The rule clarifies that water transfers are not subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

A letter sent on May 12 to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, co-signed by WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury and WSWC Executive Director Tony Willardson, points out that water transfers historically have not been subject to the NPDES Program and the federal government has deferred to the states’ control of water allocation and administration within their borders. (Download and read the letter.)

The CWA also does not contain a clear statement that it intended the NPDES Program to govern transfers. To the contrary, Section 101(g) expressly states that the CWA will not supersede or abrogate the rights of states to allocate water quantities within their jurisdiction, and that water rights established by state law shall be protected.

"Western states rely on thousands of intrastate and regional transfers to move billions of gallons of water to satisfy domestic, agricultural and industrial needs," said WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury. "Requiring NPDES permits for these transfers will be prohibitively expensive and could curtail certain transfers, with little if any water quality benefits."

In addition, the letter notes that such a requirement also will increase the uncertainty that already exists regarding the West’s water supplies by hindering the states’ ability to provide water to their citizens and economies, as well as plan for droughts, extreme events and growing water demands.

Read WGA's report: Water Transfers in the West.

Read WGA's 2014 Policy Resolution on Water Quality.

The ruling in question: Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Inc. v. EPA, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42535 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2014)



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May 13, 2014

U.S. Geological Survey


Modeling Predicts Excessive Nitrate and Arsenic in Southwestern U.S. Aquifers


Modeling results from the U.S. Geological Survey indicate that groundwater in basin-fill aquifers (sediment-filled valleys) beneath about 2.4 percent of the area in the southwestern U.S. may equal or exceed the drinking-water standard for nitrate, and groundwater beneath about 43 percent of the area may equal or exceed the standard for arsenic. These aquifers are an important resource, providing about 40 percent of the water used in that region. While several compounds occur in groundwater from these aquifers, nitrate and arsenic are among those most frequently found to exceed drinking-water standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for protection of human health.

While public water supplies are treated to ensure that water reaching the tap of households meets federal requirements, there are no such requirements for private supplies. The results highlight the importance of private well owners testing and potentially treating their water. All of the contaminants identified in the aquifers can be reduced or eliminated through a variety of treatments.

"The alluvial basins of the American Southwest can provide a valuable water resource to growing populations who often lack other sources of fresh water," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "However, the results of this modeling study raise a cautionary flag for private well owners of the need to test water to ensure its safety and to take action to remediate any contamination that is found."

Areas where nitrate concentrations are predicted to equal or exceed the EPA drinking-water standard (10 milligrams per liter as nitrogen) occur in several basins in central Arizona near Phoenix; the southern part of California’s Central Valley; as well as several basins near Los Angeles along the southern coast; and the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado.

Much of the area where arsenic concentrations are predicted to equal or exceed the drinking-water standard (10 micrograms per liter) is within several basins in parts of southwestern Arizona, southeastern California, western Nevada, and western Utah. Most of the area with predicted high arsenic concentrations is in sparsely populated rangeland, whereas most of the area with predicted high nitrate concentrations occurs where agricultural or urban communities are located.

The USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program study, which included parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, applied a statistical modeling approach that extrapolates nitrate and arsenic occurrence from areas where concentrations are known, to other areas where such data are unavailable. The extrapolation is based on nitrate and arsenic analyses from well-water samples collected from 1980 to 2010, and a wide variety of hydrologic, geologic, climatic, soil, land use, water use, agricultural, and biotic conditions that local-scale geochemical studies have found to be relevant to nitrate or arsenic occurrence in groundwater.

Results from this study are available online.



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May 11, 2014



We have more rights than water to fill them


Water experts: Solve these water issues now before we have a real problem


The economic and social disruption caused by the extreme drought in California has prompted increasing questions about the water future of the West.

In Arizona, water planners continue to analyze future supply and demand. Beginning to think about a problem before it's a big problem can ensure solutions to tackle shortages are in place before they arrive. Because earlier generations of Arizonans foresaw similar crisis and opportunities, the state as a whole has sufficient water supplies to meet current demands.

Read more



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May 4, 2014

ADI News Services


EPA Asked To Withdraw ‘Waters Of The United States’ Definition


Arizona congressmen David Schweikert, and Paul Gosar joined House colleagues in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Department of the Army Secretary John McHugh asking the proposed draft rule defining ‘waters of the United States’ be withdrawn and returned for further analysis, revision.

On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a proposed rule that would assert Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction over nearly all areas with any hydrologic connection to downstream navigable waters, including man-made conveyances such as ditches. Contrary to claims made by the EPA and USACE, this would directly contradict prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which imposed limits on the extent of federal CWA authority.

Although the agencies have maintained that the rule is narrow and clarifies CWA jurisdiction, it in fact aggressively expands federal authority under the CWA while bypassing Congress and creating unnecessary ambiguity, according to critics. Moreover, opponents say the rule is based on incomplete scientific and economic analyses.

Read more



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May 3, 2014

Climate Central


Dam It: Feds Say U.S. Can Double Hydropower


The Grand Canyon was once targeted as a major dam site by the federal government, a project eventually scuttled after widespread protest. Nobody is revisiting the idea of a dam there, but a new U.S. Department of Energy report shows that the Grand Canyon and other major gorges and rivers across the U.S. may be ideal for hydropower development.

The DOE study suggests America’s rivers are troves of vast untapped hydropower potential and developing many of them could help combat climate change by using renewable energy to reduce reliance on coal-fired power plants that emit climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Read more



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April 11, 2014


Determining the sustainability of water, agriculture in Arizona


Central Arizona has a rich history of agriculture, contributing $9.2 billion toward the state's economy. That water has near-absolute power in determining the region's fate is not an over-reaching assumption. With increasing urban development and an uncertain climate, is this industry doomed or can it be sustained?

Researchers at Arizona State University have been studying the issue, talking to farmers about how to keep their industry on a sustainable path. They argue that a mutually inclusive and ongoing conversation among the agricultural community, urban residents,
water agencies and policymakers is necessary if the region would like to maintain an agrarian footprint in the future.

Read more



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March 28, 2014



United States and Mexico Celebrate Partnership for Historic Release of Colorado River Water to Delta, Benefitting Both Nations


BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO AND YUMA, AZ – Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor and Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Anne Castle today joined other senior officials of the United States and Mexico to celebrate a historic first-time intentional release of water—called a “pulse flow”—from Morelos Dam near the U.S.-Mexico border. The water release—which began on March 23, reaches its peak today and will continue until mid-May— is part of a broad package of joint cooperative treaty actions to ensure the Colorado River system is able to continue to meet the needs of both nations.

“The spirit of cooperation and commitment to protect and preserve the Colorado River is exemplary, and these partnerships will inspire future generations to take on and solve complex challenges involving finite resources,” said Deputy Secretary Connor, emphasizing the importance of this experimental flow. “This is the first time in history that water has flowed below Morelos Dam to aid in the long-term restoration of the river, and I want to thank the Mexican and U.S. Sections of the International Boundary and Water Commission, Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River basin states, and all the U.S. and Mexican organizations involved in making today’s event happen. ”

The United States and Mexico agreed to the water release as a result of joint efforts and investments in water conservation projects in accordance with “Minute 319,” a 2012 bi-national agreement adopted under the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Treaty framework for sharing the Colorado River water. All Lower Colorado River Basin users in theUnited States. and Mexico will continue to receive their full allocations of Colorado River water in 2014.

The pulse flow, which began on Sunday with the lifting of one gate at Morelos Dam, will run for eight weeks. More control gates will open as the dam releases water at varying amounts and speeds toward the delta, its estuary and the Sea of Cortez. A volume of 105,392 acre-feet of water will flow down the river’s channel to help regenerate native cottonwood and willow habitat. The experimental flow also is providing the scientific community the opportunity to gather valuable data from collaborative monitoring activities; these data will inform both countries in developing future management actions regarding water flows in the delta. Scientists from Interior's U.S. Geological Survey are playing a key role measuring the hydrologic and ecosystem response to the pulse flow.

Representatives of federal, state and conservation organizations from the United States and Mexico have worked cooperatively since Minute 319 was signed in 2012 to establish a delivery plan for the timing and amounts of water releases from Hoover Dam for the pulse flow.
“The pulse flow now underway is the first major step in a series of anticipated actions and cooperative measures outlined between our two countries,” said Assistant Secretary Castle. “Today's event celebrates our shared vision to work together as partners to address the resources of the Colorado River and its parched Delta.”

Connor and Castle celebrated with other dignitaries including: Director General for North America from the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ana Luisa Fajer; Director General of Mexico’s National Commission for Water, David Korenfeld; U.S. Commissioner Edward Drusina and Mexico Commissioner Roberto F. Salmon from the International Boundary and Water Commission; Baja California Governor Francisco Vega; as well as representatives from seven U.S. and two Mexican states that use Colorado River water to sustain their agriculture, economies, communities and environment.

“A lot of hard work by various teams from Mexico, the United States, state governments, water districts, and private organizations has gone into making this pilot project a reality, and those partnerships are as historic as this pulse flow,” added Castle. “The results of the eight-week run of pulse flow will yield ground-breaking new science for both countries and help improve our understanding of the river, its delta, and potential restoration opportunities.”

Minute 319 is a five-year agreement approved by both governments for a series of cooperative actions. Key elements include:

Joint investment in water conservation and infrastructure projects that will generate water for the Colorado River Delta and a pilot water exchange program;

Establishing proactive basin operations by applying water delivery reductions or increases to Mexico depending upon Lake Mead reservoir conditions;

Extending humanitarian measures from a 2010 agreement, Minute 318, allowing Mexico to defer delivery of a portion of its Colorado River allotment while it continues to make repairs to earthquake-damaged infrastructure; and

Establishing a program of Intentionally Created Mexican Allocation whereby Mexico could temporarily reduce its order of Colorado River water, allowing that water to be delivered to Mexico in the future.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region will implement many of the projects and programs outlined in the Minute 319 agreement. The Lower Colorado Region serves as the "water master" for the for the most downstream 688 miles of the Colorado River within the United States on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior.



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March 21, 2014

Senator Jeff Flake


Op-ed for The Arizona Republic: It's Time to Talk Water



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March 18, 2014



Drought-plagued future predicted for Arizona


Despite a history of droughts, global climate change will make future droughts worse in US state, says geoscientist.


The American southwest is being plagued by drought.

Climate scientists warn drier-than-normal conditions may be here to stay.

In fact, future droughts may be more severe than in the past in Arizona.

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from Mesa Grande.



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March 9, 2014

Tucson News Now


Drought worsens in Arizona, rest of Southwest


TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson hasn't seen any measurable rainfall this year.

Arizona just has not had much rain at all this winter; January is proving to be practically bone dry.

All of that is unusual for us.

Here in Tucson we depend on groundwater and the Central Arizona Project. That's Colorado River water.

However, when you've had drought conditions for more than a decade, something has got to give.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows that 36 percent of Arizona is in severe drought.

Three months ago it was 14 percent.

Read more



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February 26, 2014

National Geographic


Help Return the Colorado River to the Sea


Imagine if one day you couldn’t get home. Your journey stopped short of where you were supposed to be.

That’s the story of the iconic Colorado River, which sculpted the Grand Canyon and today sustains 30 million people, but now stops flowing 90 miles before reaching the sea, its final destination.

With partners, Change the Course is working to restore the Colorado’s flow and revitalize wetlands in its Delta — crucial habitats for numerous species of birds and wildlife.

Read more



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February 24, 2014

SoFA Staff


Report Warns of Looming Water Crisis


Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) officials are warning that Arizona should start looking into additional water sources and practices... or face a crisis as soon as 2050.

The report  was prepared by the ADWR at the behest of Governor Brewer predicts water shortfalls of up to 900,000 acre-feet a year by 2050 as the population grows.

The report, Arizona’s Next Century: A Strategic Vision for Water Supply Sustainability, was released two weeks ago and is garnering a lot of attention from state leaders.

The water agency advances several possible solutions, including building a water desalination plant.



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February 2, 2014

The Week


The unprecedented water crisis of the American Southwest



A prolonged drought has sapped the once-vigorous Colorado River, threatening the water supply of millions


Why is the Colorado so important?
It's the lifeline of the arid Southwest. Starting off in the snowy Rocky Mountains of northern Colorado, the 1,450-mile river snakes its way through the Grand Canyon and southwest toward Mexico, supplying water to seven states — California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The river and its tributaries provide water for 40 million people in hot, thirsty cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Phoenix, while irrigating 4 million acres of farmland stretching from California's Imperial Valley to Wyoming's cattle herds. But with the Colorado's flow now reduced to a muddy trickle in parts, millions in the Southwest face the grave prospect of acute, permanent water shortages. The river "is a testament of what happens when we ask too much of a limited resource," said PBS filmmaker Peter McBride. "It disappears."

What's causing the problem?
The most immediate cause is 14 years of drought unrivaled in 1,250 years. Low snowpack in the Rocky Mountains has diminished the river at its source, while soaring summer temperatures over 110 degrees have evaporated its waters, depleted its reservoirs, and dried out huge swaths of soil — crippling farmers in the process. "I've got corn plants that are as brown as you could imagine," said Weld County, Colo., farmer Dave Eckhardt last summer, after losing more than 400 acres of his 1,400-acre crop. Colorado's supply crisis has been exacerbated by a demand problem: Millions of Americans have flocked to the Sun Belt to enjoy warmer temperatures, and have dug swimming pools and planted grass lawns that really don't belong in desert climates.

Read more



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January 29, 2014

Arizona Department of Water Resources


Arizona’s Next Century: A Strategic Vision for Water Supply Sustainability


The Arizona Department of Water Resources released a report, Arizona’s Next Century: A Strategic Vision for Water Supply Sustainability, that provides a foundation for Arizona’s continued economic prosperity and growth in its next Century. The Strategic Vision assesses current and projected demands and water supplies that have been identified in recent reports and provides potential strategies that will help Arizona meet its future needs. Recent studies have identified the potential for a long-term imbalance between available water supplies and projected water demands over the next 100 years if no action is taken. The Strategic Vision creates the framework for addressing future water supply challenges and helps to secure sufficient and dependable water supplies for Arizona. The Strategic Vision has been prepared at the request of Governor Brewer and is identified as part of her January 13, 2014 “The Four Cornerstones of Reform”, building on Arizona’s past successes to meet our future challenges in water supply sustainability.

“While, the State as a whole is not currently facing an immediate water crisis, Arizona is at a point where it must begin to face future water supply and management challenges,” said Arizona Department of Water Resources Director, Sandy Fabritz-Whitney. “We are at the crossroads of having to decide what actions we will take to face those challenges. Now is the time to begin addressing this challenge. The Strategic Vision for Arizona is a necessary next step in continuing to ensure that Arizona has sufficient and sustainable water supplies.”

Over the next 25 to 100 years, Arizona will need to identify and develop additional water supplies to meet projected growing water demands. While there may be viable local water supplies that have not yet been developed, water supply acquisition and importation will be required for some areas of the State to realize their full growth potential.

“Arizona’s future success depends on how effectively we continue to manage our water resources and develop new water supplies and infrastructure. Our past and present success, while noteworthy and vital to our way of life, cannot sustain Arizona’s economic development forever and we must continue to plan and invest in our water resources” said Director Fabritz-Whitney.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources will begin a statewide outreach tour to present the Strategic Vision and receive input from local stakeholders and other interested parties.

The report and presentation dates are available at:



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October 27, 2013


Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 Passed By House


H.R. 3080: Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013



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October 18, 2013

The Hill


EPA move 'unprecedented'


Republican leaders of the House Science Committee are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of rushing a rule to establish broad authority over streams and wetlands.

In a letter to the agency on Friday, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Chris Stewart (R-Utah) alleged that it is trying to initiate a “sweeping reinterpretation” of its jurisdiction in a potential new rule.

The regulation to expand the EPA’s oversight would give it “unprecedented control over private property across the nation,” they asserted.

Read more



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August 15, 2013



Bureau of Reclamation Forecasts Lower Water Release from Lake Powell to Lake Mead for 2014


SALT LAKE CITY — As part of its ongoing management of Colorado River reservoirs, the Bureau of Reclamation has determined that, based on the best available data projections of Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoir elevations, under the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead (2007 Interim Guidelines) a release of 7.48 million acre-feet (maf) from Lake Powell is required in water year 2014 (Oct. 1, 2013 – Sept. 30, 2014).

An annual release of 7.48 maf is the lowest release since the filling of Lake Powell in the 1960s. Lake Mead is projected to decline an additional eight feet during 2014 as a result of the lower Lake Powell annual release; however, Lake Mead will operate under normal conditions in calendar year 2014, with water users in the Lower Colorado River Basin and Mexico receiving their full water orders in accordance with the 2007 Interim Guidelines and the 1944 Treaty with Mexico.

Read more



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August 15, 2013



Water fears rise as Lake Powell drops


Conservation groups warned Thursday of drastic cutbacks in water releases from Lake Powell into the Lower Colorado River because of drought conditions, but state officials and a Central Arizona Project spokesman sought to downplay alarm over shortages.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation is expected to announce today that Lake Powell has dropped for the first time to a level that would trigger reduced flows into the Grand Canyon and the Lower Colorado River Basin, affecting mainly farmers.

Based on projections, CAP officials said water shortages could hit the Lower Colorado River by 2014 and trigger a 20 percent decrease in CAP water deliveries for Arizona.

Read more



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July 20, 2013



USDA and Interior Announce Partnership to Protect America’s Water Supply from Increased Wildfire Risk


Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership to Support Investments in Building Resilience for Critical Water Resource Infrastructure; Pilot Project Launched in Colorado – Additional Pilots Expected in Arizona, Idaho, California, Washington and Montana


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today announced a federal, local and private partnership that will reduce the risks of wildfire to America’s water supply in western states. The Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which outlines a comprehensive approach to reduce carbon pollution and better prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, including increased risk of wildfires and drought.

Through the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior) will work together with local water users to identify and mitigate risks of wildfire to parts of our nation’s water supply, irrigation and hydroelectric facilities. Flows of sediment, debris and ash into streams and rivers after wildfires can damage water quality and often require millions of dollars to repair damage to habitat, reservoirs and facilities.

USDA’s Forest Service and Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation will kick off the new partnership through a pilot in the Upper Colorado Headwaters and Big Thompson watershed in Northern Colorado. The partnership will include the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Colorado State Forest Service and builds off of past agreements between the Forest Service and municipal water suppliers, such as Denver Water’s Forest to Faucets partnership.

Read more



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July 18, 2013

Arizona Capitol Times


Official cites Arizona's water management as model for Colorado River


WASHINGTON – The director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday that there is no “silver bullet” to the problem of rising demand for water from the Colorado River.

Kathleen Ferris pointed to Arizona’s years of successful water management policies that have kept water use at virtually the same level since 1957, despite an exploding population. But while conservation and reuse are essential, Ferris said other measures need to be taken, such as the augmentation of supplies

Read more



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July 15, 2013

Phoenix Business Journal


Lowering water levels on Colorado River could have big real estate impact in Arizona, other states


In most cases, properties in close proximity to river fronts only enhance their values and subsequently the surrounding economies.

But what would happen if the water flow was facing chronic drought and overuse, threatened to be eventually slowed to a trickle?

That’s become a major point of concern for the Colorado River, which federal authorities project faces a 10 to 30 percent reduction in its water by 2050 and was also named the nation’s No. 1 “most endangered” river by advocacy group American Rivers in April.

Read more



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July 6, 2013



Demand on Colorado River is killing it


American Rivers, a leading nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of rivers and riparian corridors across the U.S., recently unveiled its annual list of the nation’s most endangered rivers. The mighty Colorado earned the number one spot, thanks mostly to outdated water management practices in the face of growing demand and persistent drought.

“This year’s America’s Most Endangered Rivers report underscores the problems that arise for communities and the environment when we drain too much water out of rivers,” says American Rivers’ president Bob Irvin. ”The Colorado so over-tapped that it dries up to a trickle before reaching the sea.”

Read more



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June 29, 2013

The Verde Independent


Upper Verde River Coalition considers expanding membership


PRESCOTT - The Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition plans to talk today about possibly expanding its membership at a 2 p.m. meeting at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez Street.

The coalition also is scheduled to talk about its budget and member dues for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Currently, eligible coalition members are the Yavapai County government and all the municipalities and Indian tribes in the Upper Verde River Basin. Members are Yavapai County, Prescott, Prescott Valley and the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe. Chino Valley is a non-voting member because it's not paying its dues. Dewey-Humboldt quit the group.

Read more


Follow up article: Upper Verde Coalition cuts dues, considers expanding



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June 5, 2013

Business Insider Australia


The River That Created The Grand Canyon Is Going Dry



The Colorado River, which famously carved the Grand Canyon, is beautiful to behold and amazing to raft. Unfortunately, this crucial water source is also slowly going dry.

Average annual rainfall has been falling in the southwest for the last century, while climate change, dam construction, invasive species, and population booms in desert cities like Las Vegas have caused water levels to drop by half in some places.

Twelve years ago, author and anthropologist Wade Davis and his friend Robert F. Kennedy Jr. rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in part to consider the river’s troubled future and what we stand to lose.

They documented the trip in a gorgeous film called Grand Canyon Adventure: River At Risk.

Davis respects the power of untamed nature, and believes that we can’t afford to lose the connection we have to wild place.



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May 25, 2013

CBS Denver


The Colorado: Challenged By Climate, Population


The Colorado River’s winter whisper in the Kawuneeche Valley was becoming a quiet spring roar last week as the stream hinted at the beginnings of the snowmelt’s pell-mell tumble off the mountains.

But not a drop of that snowmelt cascading into the Colorado River will reach the Pacific Ocean. The last time the Colorado River reached its delta at the Sea of Cortez was in 1998.

The Colorado River – the carver of the Grand Canyon and the chaotic stage for river runners in Glenwood, Westwater, Cataract and numerous other canyons – is bridled by urban growth from its headwaters at La Poudre Pass at the Larimer-Grand county border all the way to its dry delta in Mexico.

Read more



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May 8, 2013

Grand Canyon National Park


Translocation of Endangered Humpback Chub to Tributaries of Colorado River in Grand Canyon



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May 3, 2013

Rocky Mountain Research Station


Our Forests in the [Water] Balance



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April 24, 2013



ADEQ Announces $253,326 Water Quality Improvement Grant to Address Polluted Runoff into Oak Creek Canyon


PHOENIX (April 24, 2013) The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality announced today that a $253,326 grant has been awarded to the Oak Creek Watershed Council for construction of a restroom near Slide Rock, installing 20 pet waste stations and conducting recreation outreach in Oak Creek Canyon.

The grant is one of four in Arizona this year administered by ADEQs water quality improvement grant program to address polluted runoff from many different sources. Oak Creek , from its headwaters to its confluence with Spring Creek in Oak Creek Canyon , is listed as impaired for E. coli bacteria, a bacterium that is an indicator of fecal pollution.

These funds will help restore water quality in one of the most beautiful and heavily visited tourist areas in the state, ADEQ Director Henry Darwin said. Our program has funded more than 100 projects throughout the state and has had a significant impact on improving the health of our waterways.

The restroom facility will be constructed in the Midgley Bridge area north of Sedona on Highway 89A. More than 400,000 tourists a year access three popular hiking trails from that parking area.

The pet waste stations will be installed throughout the Oak Creek corridor and will accompany an education program designed for middle-school students about protecting the environment from animal waste. The grant money also will fund an Oak Creek ambassadors program, which will be two-person teams trained by the U.S. Forest Service to provide outreach during the most popular tourist months about pollution control.

In addition, the funding will help develop an Oak Creek watershed video and guidebook to explain nonpoint source pollution in the area.

In 2009, ADEQ awarded a $311,603 grant to the Oak Creek Canyon Task Force to identify and clean up sources of E. coli in the Oak Creek watershed.



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April 23, 2013



ADEQ Announces $387,800 Water Quality Improvement Grant to Address Sediment Runoff to Little Colorado River


PHOENIX (April 23, 2013) – The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality announced today that a $387,800 grant has been awarded to Pioneer Irrigation Company Inc. of Springerville to construct 6,000 feet of additional piping to help control sedimentation into the Little Colorado River.

The grant is one of four in Arizona this year administered by ADEQ’s water quality improvement grant program (WQIG) to address polluted runoff from many different sources.

The piping project will be in the Big Ditch, a drainage area for the Little Colorado River which has been impacted by heavy erosion. The West Fork of the Little Colorado is currently listed as impaired for turbidity, which means there is a high level of suspended particles in the water.

“These funds will help restore water quality in one of the state’s most important mountain watersheds,” ADEQ Director Henry Darwin said. “Our program has funded more than 100 projects throughout the state and has had a significant impact on improving the health of our waterways.”

The Big Ditch Piping Project will add more than a mile of the 36-inch pipe to an earlier WQIG piping project in the area in 2000, addressing existing erosion issues in areas where the ditch runs parallel to the Little Colorado River . In addition, the grant funding will pay for an evaluation of pollution control in the watershed.



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April 17, 2013

SoFA Staff


Environmental Group Names Colorado River "Most Endangered"



The environmental activist group American Rivers has proclaimed the top ten "Most Endangered Rivers" in the USA.

Their evaluation states... "Outdated water management is threatening recreation, water supply, and wildlife habitat."

Their website advocates that citizens tell Congress to support additional regulations...


Take Action For America's Most Endangered Rivers

Keep the Colorado Flowing
We need to put the Colorado River on the path to recovery. Tell Congress to support critical programs that address water supply sustainability in the Colorado River Basin and across the West.



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April 9, 2013



Groundwater Pumping May Continue to Reduce the Streamflow of the Verde River, Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. The streamflow of the Verde Riverone of Arizona's largest streams with year-round flowdeclined from 1910 to 2005 as the result of human stresses, primarily groundwater pumping, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. The study's findings suggest that streamflow reductions will continue and may increase in the future.

Water demands in the Verde Valley have increased because of the growing population in the area. Water is pumped from the ground and diverted from the Verde River to meet these needs, which has raised concerns about past, present, and future human-induced stresses on water resources.

"The results of the study emphasize our basic understanding of hydrologic systems, which is that when water is removed by being pumped through wells, it is no longer available in other parts of the system," said USGS hydrologist Bradley Garner. "This study is important because it allows us to examine human-caused stresses, namely groundwater pumping, independently from other factors that change over time, such as annual precipitation rates."

Read more



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February 26, 2013

Rocky Mountain Research Station


New report finds Western states most vulnerable to water shortages




Arizona water issues additional resource...  The Arizona Hydrological Society website.



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