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CAP, partners and a wet spring stave off river shortage

Lisa Atkins

Lisa Atkins

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently released a report confirming that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior will not declare an anticipated shortage of water on the Colorado River in January, 2016. Record breaking rains and cooler weather in the Upper Colorado River Basin in May and June were a welcome relief to avoiding a shortage, but the extraordinary planning, partnerships and conservation employed by the Central Arizona Project (CAP) played a critical role.

More than a trillion gallons of Colorado River water has been stored underground in central Arizona by CAP and the Arizona Water Banking Authority. This enormous amount of water – enough to fill Yankee Stadium more than 500 times – has been intentionally stored to provide back-up supplies for cities, industries and tribal lands in times of shortages on the Colorado River.

Along with storing water underground, CAP has created close working relationships with the Colorado River Basin states, the federal government, Mexico and local and regional partners to conserve Colorado River water and to improve the health of the river to reduce the chances of a shortage. This cooperation is a shared sacrifice to safeguard long-term reliability of the Colorado River system for everyone.

Anticipating a shortage, CAP and the Arizona Department of Water Resources began a partnership last year with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, California, Nevada and municipal water agencies as a first step to protect Colorado River water by storing an additional 740 thousand acre-feet of new water in Lake Mead. CAP’s goal to store 345,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead between 2014 and 2017 would add approximately four feet of water elevation in Lake Mead. So far, CAP is about one-half of the way to our goal. The combined benefit of the water left in Lake Mead by the interstate partners involved is critical in our efforts to avert a potential shortage in 2017.

We live in a desert. Placing a high value on our precious water resources and incorporating conservation as a part of our operations and lifestyles are essential to ensuring our future.

While the bureau’s news is excellent, there is still a small probability of a shortage declaration in 2017. CAP, which delivers Arizona’s largest renewable water supply from the Colorado River, has implemented and will continue assertive water-saving measures in anticipation of possible future shortages.

Arizonans continue to do their part. Per-capita water usage in Arizona has been going down over the past three decades. Less water usage helps keep our water supply strong and secure.

CAP is committed to our customers, our partners and Arizona’s future to be prepared for potential Colorado River shortages through ongoing, long-term planning, partnerships and innovation.

— Lisa Atkins is Central Arizona Project Board president.

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