With a Tier 2A shortage declaration last August, the federal government slashed 21% of Arizona’s Colorado River water entitlement for the year 2023 and 8% of Nevada’s entitlement, saying that states in the lower basin were unable to reach an agreement for further cuts in the consumptive use of Colorado River water by its mid-August deadline.
“Arizona and Nevada put forward an aggressive proposal that would achieve two million acre-feet of reductions among the Lower Basin and Mexico in 2023 and beyond. That proposal was rejected,” wrote Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke and Central Arizona Project General Manager Ted Cooke. Noting that Arizona already has left 800,000 acre-feet in Lake Mead in the current year alone, Buschatzke and Cooke concluded that “it is unacceptable for Arizona to continue to carry a disproportionate burden of reductions for the benefit of others who have not contributed.”
Joining Nevada with proposed measures to reduce Colorado River water consumption, an August 30 letter from Arizona’s water officials to federal agencies pointed out Arizona’s conservation goals achieved since the 1980 Groundwater Management Act was enacted. Arizona’s proposals to the Bureau on August 30 are similar to those offered by Nevada:
- Create new beneficial use criteria for Lower Basin water users, eliminating wasteful and antiquated water use practices and uses of water no longer appropriate for this Basin’s limited
- Develop criteria for managing facilities, reservoirs, and projects for health and human safety operations in order to create certainty and predictability in the face of further reservoir declines.
- Create a basin-wide municipal turf removal program to increase payments to customers where publicly available programs already exist.
- Expand agricultural efficiency improvements that result in consumptive use reductions.
- Require seasonal irrigation schedules be implemented and enforced.
- Invest in water reuse, water recycling, and desalination programs.
- Purchase additional lands under the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program to prepare for habitat restoration under a significantly modified system.
- Incentivize conversions to lower water-use crops.
- Charge each contractor for evaporation and losses in the Lower Basin.
- Re-prioritize Salinity Control Act funding to only those projects that reduce consumptive uses of water, including fallowing agreements and the purchase of marginal lands.
- Accelerate and fund necessary improvements and modifications at Glen Canyon Dam that will increase predictability and reliability of releases under low reservoir conditions.
- Prioritize federal funding for drought mitigation to those projects that provide meaningful long
term and permanent reductions in use.
- Provide proactive and aggressive federal leadership.
Arizona’s August 30 letter can be viewed on the Department of Water Resources’ website.
Links to letters submitted by the Colorado River Commission of Nevada and the Southern Nevada Water Authority are available on the Colorado River Commission of Nevada’s website.