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.
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.
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
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
"U.S., Mexico: The Decline of the Colorado River is republished with permission of Stratfor."
Arizona Water Issues News and
August 29, 2014
SRP reports lower than average water runoff in 2014
The 2014 winter runoff season provided little relief for Arizona’s
reservoirs, marking eighth driest season in 116 years, according to data
from the Salt River Project.
Despite this, reservoirs are at about 53 percent capacity, which is
about the same level as this time last year, said
Jeff Lane, an SRP spokesman.
August 28, 2014
Department of the Interior
Interior, USDA Partnership Protects and Restores Important Central
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
"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
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
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.
August 13, 2014
Bureau of Reclamation
2015 Lake Powell Water Release to Lake Mead
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 http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g4000/24mo/index.html.
July 31, 2014
June 26, 2014
Arizona Daily Independent
Forest Service, Reclamation refuse to attend “Soak Up Water Authority”
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,
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
The proposed “Waters of the U.S.” regulation and the U.S. Forest Service’s
Groundwater Directive are additional measures proposed by the...
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
June 22, 2014
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”
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
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.
June 15, 2014
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
...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
June 14, 2014
The EPA Extended the Public Comment Period for the
Waters of the U.S. Proposed Rule
is greatly concerned about the proposed redefinition of
Waters of the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Congressman urges citizens to submit comments on the proposed
Talks EPA Water Rule (Video).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced
an extension of the public comment period from the original
deadline of July 21, 2014 to the new deadline of October 20,
In an email to congressional staff, the EPA writes that:
"This extension is in response to numerous requests
received by the agencies. The agencies are continuing to meet
with representatives of States and local governments,
stakeholders, and elected officials during the comment
When I look at the southwest and how we manage our water, I see
a very different view than what's being portrayed in the current
rule. This rule goes beyond the spirit of the Clean Water Act and
is an incredible overreach of power.
Join the conversation and share your comments using one of the
methods listed below:
The proposed rule is identified by Docket ID No.
Follow the instructions for making comments
· Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Include EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 in the subject line of the message.
· Mail: Send the original and three copies of comments to:
Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T,
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention:
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880.
Hand Delivery/Courier: Deliver comments to EPA Docket Center, EPA
West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460,
Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880. Such deliveries are
accepted only during the Docket's normal hours of operation, which
are 8:30 a.m.. to 4:30 p.m.., Monday through Friday, excluding legal
holidays. Special arrangements should be made for deliveries of
boxed information. The telephone number for the Water Docket
June 13, 2014
Department of the Interior
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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
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)
May 15, 2014
Arizona town near Grand Canyon imposes severe water
restrictions amid drought
WILLIAMS, Ariz. – In the northern Arizona city of
Williams, restaurant patrons don't automatically get a
glass of water anymore. Residents caught watering lawns or
washing cars with potable water can be fined. Businesses
are hauling water from outside town to fill swimming
pools, and building permits have been put on hold because
there isn't enough water to accommodate development.
Officials in the community about 60 miles from the
Grand Canyon's South Rim have clamped down on water use
and declared a crisis amid a drought that is quickly
drying up nearby reservoirs and forcing the city to pump
its only two wells to capacity.
The situation offers a glimpse at how cities across the
West are coping with a drought that has left them
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Department of Energy report shows that the Grand Canyon
and other major gorges and rivers across the U.S. may be ideal for
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
April 11, 2014
Determining the sustainability of water, agriculture
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?
agencies and policymakers is necessary if the region would
like to maintain an agrarian footprint in the future.
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,
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
“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
Minute 319 is a five-year agreement approved by both
governments for a series of cooperative actions. Key
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
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.
March 21, 2014
Senator Jeff Flake
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
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.
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
is in severe drought.
Three months ago it was 14 percent.
February 26, 2014
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
February 24, 2014
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
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.
February 2, 2014
unprecedented water crisis of the American Southwest
A prolonged drought has sapped the
once-vigorous Colorado River, threatening the water supply
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
Department of Water Resources
Next Century: A Strategic Vision for Water Supply
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
“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
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.
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
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: http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/Arizonas_Strategic_Vision
October 27, 2013
3080: Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013
October 18, 2013
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.
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.
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
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
July 18, 2013
Arizona Capitol Times
Official cites Arizona's water management as model for
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
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
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.
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
“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 River...is so over-tapped that it dries up
to a trickle before reaching the sea.”
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.
Follow up article:
Verde Coalition cuts dues, considers expanding
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
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.
The Colorado: Challenged By Climate,
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.
Canyon National Park
Rocky Mountain Research Station
$253,326 Water Quality Improvement Grant to Address
Polluted Runoff into Oak Creek Canyon
(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.
grant is one of four in
this year administered by ADEQs water quality improvement
grant program to address polluted runoff from many
, from its headwaters to its confluence with Spring Creek
, is listed as impaired for E.
coli bacteria, a
bacterium that is an indicator of fecal pollution.
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
restroom facility will be constructed in the
area north of Sedona on Highway 89A. More than 400,000
tourists a year access three popular hiking trails from
that parking area.
pet waste stations will be installed throughout the
corridor and will accompany an education program designed
for middle-school students about protecting the
environment from animal waste. The grant money also will
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
addition, the funding will help develop an
watershed video and guidebook to explain nonpoint source
pollution in the area.
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
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.
grant is one of four in
this year administered by ADEQ’s water quality improvement grant
program (WQIG) to address polluted runoff from many different sources.
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.”
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.
Environmental Group Names Colorado River "Most
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.
Pumping May Continue to Reduce the Streamflow of the Verde
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."
February 26, 2013
Rocky Mountain Research Station
Arizona water issues additional resource... The Arizona
Hydrological Society website.
Canyon National Park
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