What's being done now to protect our future?

Central Arizona Project (CAP) and the Salt River Project (SRP) have actively managed water supplies for desert living since both organizations’ inceptions. Through the development of large storage reservoirs, high-capacity groundwater wells and innovative programs to promote the underground storage of water, drought preparedness is a core priority of both agencies.

Working both independently and collaboratively, CAP and SRP continue to strengthen the region against the impacts of drought and climate change and ensure that sufficient water is available for future needs.

For CAP, these other efforts include:

Collaborative partnerships

CAP continues to work with ADWR and the seven states with rights to Colorado River water to better manage water supplies during declared shortages. A key agreement signed in 2007 forms the building blocks of this management strategy, but further work is being conducted on reducing overuse of the river through conservation, a new Drought Contingency Proposal (DCP), and other methods.

Protecting Lake Mead

Lake Mead water levels are important to Arizona because they determine whether a shortage is declared on the Colorado River. If shortage is declared, CAP would see a reduction in its Colorado River water supply.

In 2007, all the states that share the river, key water users and state and federal government officials agreed to shortage "trigger levels" and resulting reduced delivery amounts. These 2007 Shortage Sharing Guidelines were developed based on data that was available at that time, which was very early in the Colorado River drought. Even after those guidelines were adopted, work continued, resulting in a 2012 agreement by Mexico to share reductions of its Colorado River supply along with the United States.

But new data shows that those voluntary guidelines are not enough to keep Lake Mead from declining to levels which threaten both water availability and power generation at Hoover Dam.

To help protect the health and future of the entire Colorado River system, Arizona, Nevada, California and the Bureau of Reclamation are discussing new actions, called a Drought Contingency Proposal (DCP).

If implemented, the DCP would be a shared strategy to go above and beyond what's already in place to protect Lake Mead, calling for shared reductions by Arizona, California, and Nevada. These reductions would be in addition to reductions established in earlier agreements.

Within Arizona, water users are collaborating with one another to find ways to share the burdens and benefits of the additional water reductions identified in the proposal. The details of the potential DCP are still being negotiated. If implemented, the proposal would require new reductions to CAP and its customers, which would increase the cost of CAP water.

In return, CAP and its customers will have greater certainty about on the longer-term reliability of the Colorado River, allowing CAP to continue supporting the economic and environmental health of central Arizona.

Improving water supply reliability

Additional conservation programs instituted by CAP, Arizona and interstate partners since 2014 have also helped support levels in Lake Mead. For instance, CAP, the U.S. government and the major water providers in Nevada and Southern California are executing a program to store an additional 740,000 acre-feet in Lake Mead by the end of 2017 and continue discussing programs aimed at protecting lake levels from falling to critically low levels. Another interstate program has been implemented to fund projects that reduce the use of Colorado River water. The water saved through these conservation projects stays in the river and helps support the health of the system.

Also, CAP, in partnership with water agencies in Nevada and California, helped fund the construction of Brock Reservoir, an off-stream reservoir that captures water released from Lake Mead that is not immediately used by agricultural water users. Since 2010, Brock Reservoir has saved more than 100,000 acre-feet per year.

For more information, visit the Central Arizona Project website.

For SRP, these efforts include:

Securing new water supplies

SRP is partnering with the Gila River Indian Community to make renewable water supplies available in central Arizona for new demands and in times of drought. Through the joint venture, Gila River Water Storage, LLC, there is 30,000 acre-feet of CAP water available for 100-year leases and up to 2 million acre-feet of CAP water being stored to earn long-term storage credits. Together, these supplies equal 50,000 acre-feet per year of renewable water supplies for the next 100 years. To help in times of drought over the next 15 years, up to 100,000 acre-feet of CAP water is available during dry years to meet SRP's water demands.

C.C. Cragin Reservoir, a 15,000 acre-foot reservoir located on East Clear Creek, was recently acquired by SRP as a water supply source for Payson, nothern Gila County communities, Indian water settlements and use by SRP’s customers. SRP continues to seek other partnerships to grow available water supplies.

Improving the health of the watershed

SRP is partnering with environmental, corporate, government and academic interests to improve the health of the water supply through forest restoration. Northern Arizona forests are overgrown and highly susceptible to catastrophic fire. The majority of water that flows into SRP’s reservoirs originates from these high-elevation forested lands. By thinning these forests, the watersheds will be protected from damage that occurs following catastrophic wildfire.

Technology

SRP is investing in ways to understand how to develop new water supplies and stretch existing supplies further. These efforts include implementing new technologies, including automated devices, to better measure and control water deliveries, improving well drilling and aquifer management techniques, reducing outdoor water usage through the use of residential smart irrigation controller devices and investigating desalinization opportunities.

Additional information is available on SRP’s water website.

Combined, these efforts have and will continue to ensure the Valley is prepared for the impacts of drought and potential water shortages on metropolitan Phoenix.