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Arizona’s drought plan offers key lessons for the road ahead

opinion-WEB

By now most have heard the news: Arizona, the other six Colorado River Basin states, and the federal Bureau of Reclamation secured a major victory for the health of the Colorado River by completing the Drought Contingency Plan (“DCP”) agreements this spring, and getting Congress to enact implementing legislation within weeks. It had become clear that we needed to take action to plan for a drier future in the region.

Even with an extended drought that added urgency to negotiations, it was not easy to achieve this success. Each of the seven states had to develop a plan to implement the DCP agreements. And Arizona, which was facing the biggest potential reductions in Colorado River water deliveries, faced a major political and practical challenge. Political victories like the adoption of Arizona’s DCP Implementation Plan should be well understood because we will need to ensure similar successes on other water issues in the near future.

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

So what did Arizona do right, and what can we learn from this process as we take on other water issues going forward?

Generally, the politics of scarcity can bring out the worst kind of political behavior. However, in this case, it brought out Arizona’s best.  There were at least five key ingredients that led to agreement on how Arizona would implement the drought plan agreements.

First, leaders demonstrated selflessness and prioritized the best interest of the entire state. The “Arizona Lower Basin DCP Steering Committee” process was co-chaired by policy experts who were directly responsible for the plan’s implementation – Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Director Tom Buschatzke and Central Arizona Project (CAP) General Manager Ted Cooke.  At the outset of this process, Buschatzke and Cooke (reflecting the perspectives of their agencies) differed on important issues, but they also understood that reaching an agreement on the DCP was of paramount importance and required creativity, compromise, and extraordinary persistence.

Second, the Steering Committee process met the test of ensuring robust involvement by diverse stakeholders. Virtually every stakeholder group was represented. Agendas were published, timelines were adopted, information was shared about the risk to Arizona’s water supplies, and small group discussions were encouraged to work through difficult issues. At times the meetings were contentious. Yet the process also produced creative solutions, good faith negotiations, and broad consensus on the essential aspects of the plan.

Kevin Moran
Kevin Moran

Third, key government leaders like Gov. Doug Ducey, Senate President Karen Fann, Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, and the CAP Board each made funding commitments that sent powerful signals to the stakeholders and facilitated agreement on the plan’s conservation and water sharing components.

Fourth, it helps to have a deadline – and this came in the form of stern, timely leadership from federal Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. Last December Burman announced that the seven Colorado River basin states had to complete the multi-state DCP agreements by January 31, 2019 or one would be imposed by the federal government. Arizona’s leadership in enacting its statute by that deadline set the stage for California to complete its own plan.

Finally, the entire process was defined by bipartisanship. A water crisis would impact all of us, regardless of party affiliation, something leaders from both parties at the Legislature recognized as they participated in the Steering Committee. State Sen. Lisa Otondo (D-Yuma), for example, met the sometimes steep learning curve of a complex subject head-on, emerging as a trusted educator for her fellow legislators. Her hard work earned her special recognition by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry at its end-of-session awards ceremony. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Martha McSally and Rep. Raul Grijalva, lawmakers who typically occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum, shepherded the federal implementation of the DCP through to passage. The success of the DCP could and should prove to be a model for how to find solutions to other difficult public policy challenges.

Arizona will need to bring the same quality of leadership and creative problem-solving that produced the DCP success story when water stakeholders resume work on the other pillars of a sustainable water future:  protecting groundwater in both urban and rural areas, starting the regional process of re-negotiating the 2007 Interim Guidelines, and finding collaborative ways of conserving water while benefitting Arizona’s rivers and streams. The passage of DCP was historic for Arizona.  Now, we have an opportunity to develop solutions for the long-term conservation of our state’s precious water resources.

Kevin Moran is the Senior Director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Western Water Program. He served as a member of the Steering Committee that developed the Arizona DCP Implementation Plan. Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and also served on the Steering Committee.

CAP celebrates 50 years since landmark legislation

In this Sept. 30, 1968 photo, President Lyndon Johnson signs legislation that creates the Central Arizona Project. With the president from left are Carl Hayden, John Rhodes, Lady Bird Johnson, Stewart and Mo Udall and Roy Elson. PHOTO COURTESY ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
In this Sept. 30, 1968 photo, President Lyndon Johnson signs legislation that creates the Central Arizona Project. With the president are Carl Hayden, John Rhodes, Lady Bird Johnson, Stewart and Mo Udall and Roy Elson. PHOTO COURTESY ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY

As the Central Arizona Project celebrates the 50th anniversary of the federal act that authorized the massive water project, Arizona is still locked in complicated conversations about how the state will move forward on water issues.

A half century ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Colorado River Basin Project Act, which authorized construction of CAP to funnel water from the Colorado River Basin to central Arizona.

During the signing, Johnson called the bill landmark legislation that built on a series of previous conservation measures he had signed. He also proclaimed the signing day, “Carl Hayden Day” after the Arizona senator who played an integral role in furthering the state’s water interests.

“For the millions of Americans west of the Continental Divide, it will provide more water for growing cities; it will provide more water for expanding industries, for the farmers’ crops, and for the ranchers’ cattle,” Johnson said.

But decades-old conversations about the longevity of using the Colorado River Basin as a major water source are still ongoing today as a contingent of seven Western states work to prevent water shortages into the future.

CAP, which is now a 336-mile system of channels, pipelines and pumping stations that move water, was envisioned decades before Johnson gave his approval.

Congress allocated $1.2 million for CAP construction in 1970, but the federal government didn’t release the money until after Arizona created the Central Arizona Water Conservation District. Construction of CAP started five years after the act’s signing on September 30, 1968.

CAP Deputy General Manager Tom McCann said he’s not sure anybody really knows directly where the idea for CAP came from. People had the general idea of taking water from the Colorado River and bringing it to central Arizona for the past 100 years, he said.

During the 1930s and 1940s, both business and agriculture interests were working on plans to bring water from the Colorado River to the heart of the state to spur business and farming developments.

John Harrison, CAP’s construction contract administrator, still has a copy of a CAP project planning report from 1947. He estimates there were somewhere around 20 such planning reports.

“It was actually a long time coming to be,” he said. “It was on the drawing board from the state of Arizona for I don’t know how long.”

Some refer to CAP as, “the last big one” because the federal government hasn’t taken on a water project of that magnitude since.

Passing the Colorado River Basin Act through Congress was no easy task. Multiple attempts to pass the act were torpedoed by the California congressional delegation, which didn’t want its state to face any cuts to its water.

In order to make the deal happen, Arizona agreed to take junior priority status, meaning it would be the first state to take water reductions during a shortage.

McCann called the lengthy process of getting the act passed politics as usual.

“It’s easy to ask yourself today, especially from the Arizona perspective, well, why did Arizona politicians ever go along with that? If you read the things they said at the time, it was very clear that they felt they didn’t really have any alternative,” he said.

But water discussions continue among Arizona and other Western states. Right now, the Lower Basin states of Arizona, Nevada and California and the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are negotiating water conservation agreements as water levels in Lake Mead continue to decline.

The states have released draft agreements to implement drought-contingency plans in the Upper and Lower Basins after the Bureau of Reclamation predicted a shortage in Lake Mead — wherein water levels are projected to fall beneath elevation–1,075 feet above sea level — in 2020.

“To me, the law of the river emerges in an incremental fashion,” McCann said. “You solve what you can solve at the time and you leave other things for the future. This is just one more step in the evolution of water.”

The Western states have water agreements stretching back to the 1922 Colorado River Compact, which divided the states into two basins and distributed 7.5 million acre feet of river water each year per basin. Arizona had concerns about the water allocation and didn’t ratify the compact until 22 years later.

Another reason Arizona politicians agreed to the junior priority status in the Colorado River Act is because they believed they were getting a commitment to augment the flow of the river, McCann said. Augmentation would mean adding more water to the basin through options such as desalination or importing water from elsewhere.

But augmentation efforts are not cheap. And while the federal government studied the idea in 1975 and learned that eventually, there will not be enough water in the river basin to go around, it never started any sort of augmentation project.

While there is still more water available than necessary for current uses, the resources in the Colorado River Basin are finite and Arizona will likely be involved in water conversations for decades to come.

Ducey, Babbitt lead the way on water conservation

Editor:

I applaud Governor Ducey’s and former Governor Babbitt’s public statements of support for Arizona’s adoption of the drought contingency plans (DCP), expressed last week. Arizona’s water future depends on careful conservation, management, and collaboration to ensure that all of our communities are able to plan well into the future. This leadership is a valuable and essential part of how we get to a more sustainable future for the Colorado River basin.

Implementing a DCP in Arizona requires careful coordination from diverse groups and interests from across the state. It’s a credit to all of the groups involved in ongoing discussions that we are advancing toward a finalized agreement. The time is now to address water management and secure the Colorado River Basin’s future. We must enter a new phase of collaboration, innovation and flexibility when it comes to using and managing our water.

2018 has been one of the river’s driest years on record, and combined storage levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead are at their lowest point in roughly 50 years. To move the ball forward, Arizona leaders must continue working together to finalize how the state will implement a Drought Contingency Plan within Arizona. I am pleased and grateful to see Governor Ducey, and former Governor Babbitt, stepping in to lead the way during the in the coming weeks and months.

— Ted Kowalski is lead and senior program officer for the Walton Family Foundation Colorado River initiative.

Feds to Arizona, California: Drought plan not complete

water splashing620

Despite much fanfare over Arizona’s Legislature passing and Gov. Doug Ducey signing drought plan legislation Thursday, the Department of the Interior is stepping in because federal officials say the drought plan isn’t done.

Arizona and California have not completed all the necessary steps to approve the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said Friday.

Burman set March 4 as the new deadline for Arizona and California — the only holdouts among the seven Colorado River Basin states — to complete the necessary steps to sign onto the Drought Contingency Plan.

Although Burman praised Arizona’s passage of drought plan legislation Thursday, she said it wasn’t enough. Arizona must finalize a series of intrastate agreements to ink an Arizona drought plan before the federal government will consider Arizona’s part of the deal complete, she said.

“Arizona took a very important step yesterday and I applaud their efforts,” she said. “There are still several agreements within the state between tribes, between water districts, between the states that will all need to be completed and signed.”

But the legislation Ducey signed into law Thursday was essentially a green light for the state to finalize a series of intrastate agreements related to when and where Arizona water users will face water cutbacks and how they will be compensated for those cuts.

Because Arizona and California did not complete all the necessary work by the Jan. 31 midnight deadline, the Department of Interior, through the Bureau of Reclamation, submitted a notice to the Federal Register Friday soliciting recommendations from governors of the seven Colorado River Basin states for next steps, Burman said.  

In essence, the federal government has asked governors of the seven states to submit recommendations on what steps the federal government should take to protect the Colorado River, should the states be unable to finalize a Drought Contingency Plan.

The federal government will accept those recommendations between March 4 and March 19.

But if Arizona and California are able to complete the necessary last steps before March 4, the federal government will terminate its request and the Drought Contingency Plan process will move forward, Burman said.

“Arizona took a giant step to be closer yesterday, but we’re not done yet,” Burman said.

The holdup in California is the state’s Imperial Irrigation District, which seeks federal funding to clean up the badly polluted and quickly drying Salton Sea in exchange for signing onto the DCP.

The Governor’s Office praised Burman’s edict Friday, saying the federal government’s decision to open up a delayed comment period is, “good news for Arizona,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said.

“Because of Arizona’s actions yesterday, we met the deadline and the federal government is not in charge of our water,” he said in an email.

In December, when Burman set the Jan. 31 deadline for states to complete work on the DCP, she warned the Department of the Interior would publish a notice in the Federal Register. Although she did not specify a date for when the comment period would start, her words seemed to suggest the timeframe would be immediately after Jan. 31.

The Governor’s Office applauded Burman’s decision to push the comment back a month, saying that’s a sign that she knows completion of the DCP is imminent.

“Arizona met the deadline. It’s time for others to do the same,” Ptak said, his words in direct conflict with those from Burman, who said Arizona did not meet the DCP deadline.

The four Upper Colorado River Basin states — Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico — and one Lower Colorado River Basin state — Nevada — have completed all the necessary steps to make the DCP a reality.

But Lower and Upper Basin Drought Contingency Plans and a companion agreement for all seven states to adhere to the agreements cannot be completed unless Arizona and California finish intrastate drought agreements.

The Colorado River Basin states are working to sign onto the DCP as a result of falling water levels in the Colorado River, most noticeably in Lake Mead, which has fallen to perilously low levels. Burman reiterated the dire state of the river as part of her call to action.

Burman could not say specifically what happens if Arizona and California don’t meet the latest deadline imposed by the federal government. That’s why the Department of Interior is soliciting input from the seven basin states, she said.

“We’re at a point where two roads are diverging in the woods and we need to decide which path we’re going to follow,” she said. “One of those paths is the states that have worked collaboratively and creatively to bring together solutions are complete in the very near future. And that other path is looking to the secretary’s broad authority on the Colorado River.”

The Secretary of the Interior could step in and impose steep water cuts on Arizona and other states in the Lower Colorado River Basin if a DCP is not completed.

Burman said she hopes that can be avoided.

“My call to the basin states is ‘you are close, but it’s time to get the job done,’” Burman said.

Next step? Make AZ a strong voice among Colorado River states

opinion-WEB

It didn’t take long for the completion of the Drought Contingency Plan to create value to Arizona and the Colorado River Basin.

Its focus on stabilizing Lake Mead and creating incentives to “bank” water in the reservoir already are paying dividends.t didn’t take long for the completion of the Drought Contingency Plan to create value to Arizona and the Colorado River Basin.

Tom Buschatzke
Tom Buschatzke

We can say with confidence that DCP is already a success.

DCP is providing a safe harbor while we work on important issues leading up to 2026, when the existing guidelines for the operation of the Colorado River system expire.

We now have an opportunity to build on the successful Arizona process that led to the DCP signing. Arizona is stronger together. And that will serve us well as we work toward the next step – maintaining a stable, healthy Colorado River system as we face a hotter and drier future.

Lake Mead is 22 feet higher than expected

A year ago, many of us were immersed in the details of Arizona’s Drought Contingency Implementation Plan, which benefited from the cooperative spirit of its participants, including elected leaders and representatives from every sector of the state’s water-using community.

In 2020 and likely 2021, we will be operating under DCP’s Tier Zero, a reduction of 192,000 acre-feet to Arizona. The estimated impact of contributing this water is more than $40 million, but the investment is worth it to protect the Colorado River system.

DCP’s incentives allowed for greater storage in Lake Mead this year. That, coupled with a lot of snow from the Rocky Mountains and additional tributary flow, increased storage in Lake Mead by more than 22 feet from what was initially projected.

An excellent winter snowpack in the Rockies helped Lake Mead a lot. But here is the kicker – almost half of that 22-foot rise in Lake Mead was due to storage and contributions to system conservation.

But DCP won’t hold us forever

The term used for the coming negotiations on the system’s new guidelines is “reconsultation” of the “Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead.”

The emphasis is on “interim.” The 2007 guidelines expire in 2026. So, when people ask “what’s next?” for Colorado River management, that’s it – the difficult challenge of assessing the effectiveness of the current guidelines, with the DCP overlay, and exploring new approaches for the next iteration of the guidelines.

As we learned on January 31 when the Legislature passed, and Gov. Doug Ducey signed Arizona’s DCP, we achieved success because we worked together. We intend to bring the steering committee process back to life, reviving that spirit of cooperation that so infused negotiations.

Ted Cooke
Ted Cooke

To that end, we are embarking on a listening and data-collecting effort. It is our plan to meet first with the elected leaders who contributed so much time and effort to the successful steering committee process. Then, we plan to sit down with other delegates, including those representing Arizona tribes, cities, agriculture, mining, development and the nonprofit community.

Our goal – to develop a shared vision

Our new goal? Gather our stakeholders’ thoughts and develop a shared vision as we plan for Arizona’s Colorado River water supply.

This will ensure Arizona is a strong voice among the Colorado River Basin states and the federal government as we hammer out the next set of agreements for management of the Colorado River Basin beyond 2026.

That is our “Next Step.” It’s a big one and we must be prepared. And we will be, because Arizona truly is stronger together.

Tom Buschatzke is director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Ted Cooke is general manager of Central Arizona Project.

No Arizona drought plan in sight as deadline looms

Lake Pleasant April 2, 2014 Photo by Central Arizona Project
Lake Pleasant
April 2, 2014
Photo by Central Arizona Project

After months of drought plan negotiations and as the deadline for Arizona to produce an internal agreement on water reductions nears, the state’s water interests have nothing to show for their efforts yet.

As neighboring states eagerly await details on how Arizona will deal with a potential shortage on the Colorado River, all signs indicate that intrastate water talks, which are largely happening outside the public eye, have become strained in recent weeks.

And time to produce an agreement is running out.

A nearly 40-member board made up of lawmakers, farmers, developers, and representatives from various municipalities, the state and tribes have been locked in intense behind-the-scenes discussions for months on how to divvy up water reductions across the state’s water users for the sake of stabilizing water levels of Lake Mead.

Arizona inking an internal agreement and getting legislative approval for the deal is the final step before the state can sign onto the Drought Contingency Plan with the six other Colorado River basin states and Mexico.

Arizona originally planned on being done with its plan by the end of November. But the state may not meet that self-imposed deadline.

If Arizona water users can’t come to an agreement by the end of the month, then they may have nothing to reveal at the December 13 Colorado River Water Users Association meeting in Las Vegas, where they planned to present Arizona’s drought plan to other Colorado River Basin states.

Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, said finishing an internal state agreement in time for the association meeting is an aspirational deadline and not a hard deadline.

“It would really be great if Arizona could go and announce that we had reached an agreement on DCP (Drought Contingency Plan), but there isn’t anything hydrological that compels that deadline,” she said. “It’s not as if Lake Mead’s level is suddenly going to plummet.”

The Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee has what is supposed to be its last meeting scheduled for November 29. The late November meeting between water stakeholders will come after a series of cancelled steering committee meetings because various water users could not come to agreement.

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources, said he is confidant Arizona will have something to present at the mid-December water users association meeting.

“It’s been a very long haul, but we’re hopefully now in the closing stretches,” he said at a Central Arizona Project board meeting November 15.

A major sticking point for these negotiations is the issue of mitigation.

Mitigation is water-speak for how Arizona water users will be compensated — with water, money or both — for taking reductions in order to build up water levels in Lake Mead.

Water levels in Lake Mead became an urgent concern after the Bureau of Reclamation predicted a shortage could happen at the lake as soon as 2020.

While the steering committee has discussed multiple mitigation plans, at least three have been rejected because the costs were too high, according to a presentation at the recent CAP board meeting.

The mitigation proposals cost between $85 million and $197 million and were a big reason why the steering committee was at an impasse, Suzanne Ticknor, a director of water policy at CAP told the members of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, CAP’s board.

Gov. Doug Ducey hinted at the high costs in a recent op-ed in the Arizona Capitol Times. Demands for money and water to offset water reductions necessitated by a possible shortage at Lake Mead have grown to unreasonable proportions, he wrote.

“Some recent proposals are so short-sighted and unsustainable that it requires me to remind all participants why we began this process in the first place,” he wrote.

Sen. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, also penned a similar letter to members of the steering committee, urging them to set aside their petty interests and learn to compromise in drought plan negotiations.

The catalyst? A communication breakdown amid drought talks earlier this month, Otondo said without providing details because she said pointing fingers could be counter-productive to negotiations.

“There was mistrust and misunderstanding and I hope, I truly hope that reaching out to each other at a sensitive time moves DCP forward,” Otondo said.

Some closely involved in the drought talks, like Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community, are confidant the state will complete a drought plan soon.

“We are close,” he said. “We are very close, I believe, to a path forward for the DCP that represents and that respects all of the big tent of stakeholders in Arizona that we are trying to include, that will be affected”

Porter, of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, compared the recent water talks to the heated negotiations before completion of Arizona’s groundbreaking Groundwater Management Act of 1980.

Right up until the act was finalized, water interests were fighting over water rights, talks appeared to be falling apart and it didn’t look as though water stakeholders would come to agreement on any groundwater legislation, she said.

Today’s water talks are an echo of what happened 38 years ago, Porter said.

“We really won’t know until the show’s over,” she said. “There’s still opportunity for compromise.”

But former Gov. Bruce Babbitt, who helped bring parties together on the game-changing groundwater legislation nearly four decades ago, recently issued a warning to Arizona’s water community and the state Legislature.

Complete and pass a drought plan or Arizona will be left behind other Colorado River Basin states, he wrote in an op-ed in The Arizona Republic.

“If the Drought Contingency Plan is not ratified soon California and the other Basin states may decide to proceed without us,” Babbitt wrote. “That could be the beginning of another Colorado River water war.”

Water plan makes shortfalls less painful, but doesn’t abolish them

opinion-WEB

The state’s water stakeholders have been engaged for more than two months to craft Arizona’s approach to the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan. This effort, led by our two agencies, is directed toward “bending the curve” to protect Lake Mead from falling to critical levels.

Recent reports from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have stated that the Colorado River Basin has avoided shortage for 2019, but has at least a 50/50 chance of moving into a shortage declaration in 2020.

So, will this drought contingency planning effort change that course? Will it keep the basin out of the Tier 1 shortage to be declared at Lake Mead elevation 1075?

Ted Cooke
Ted Cooke
Tom Buschatzke
Tom Buschatzke

The answer to both questions is, simply, “no.”

The Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or LBDCP, is not designed to keep Lake Mead above the first tier of shortage. Rather, it’s meant to keep Lake Mead from further dropping to the most critical elevation levels, at which point Arizona’s Colorado River water users would be facing deep cuts to their water supplies and the river system would be in extreme stress.

The risks to the Colorado River have increased from what was expected when the Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortage were established in 2007. The tools provided in those guidelines now are insufficient to address the current risks to the system.

Over the past several years, water users in the Lower Basin states have worked together to voluntarily contribute water to Lake Mead, staving off shortage since 2015. However, after nearly two decades of drought and the recent poor hydrology (meaning little snow in the Upper Basin), a Tier 1 shortage is imminent, even with these increased conservation efforts. Whether it’s in 2020 or a year or two after, that first level of shortage likely will occur, regardless of LBDCP.

If not to keep us from shortage, then why is the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan important?

One of the most important components lies in the realm of collaboration.

By working together, Arizona, California, Nevada, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and now Mexico (through the recent treaty update known as Minute 323), we can chart a path forward so one state alone does not feel the brunt of shortage. Once LBDCP is in place, we can work in partnership to leave enough water in Lake Mead so the lake begins to recede at a slower level – the “bending of the curve,” which has been rapidly trending downward. It will take some time to get there, but by starting now, there will be more leverage and momentum to prevent the lake from falling to critically low levels.

To make this happen sooner, rather than later, we have formed a Steering Committee with representation from a variety of sectors within Arizona. This group has been meeting bi-weekly since late July and likely will continue past Thanksgiving. This “AZDCP” effort includes four essential elements for implementing the LBDCP in Arizona, which the group has begun to work through. The goal is to have a plan in place before the end of the year that would incorporate broad-based agreement within Arizona supporting an effective LBDCP. The state Legislature would then consider the proposal in early 2019 to authorize the state of Arizona to sign the LBDCP.

Each public Steering Committee meeting we’ve held has essentially been standing-room only. It’s clear a lot of people believe negotiating an effective Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan is vital to our state. And each meeting tends to spawn additional meetings with people throughout Arizona working feverishly to get this done – not to keep us out of shortage, but to keep us and the Colorado River system from being in an even worse place.

Much work has been done and much will continue to be done – but the sooner we have the drought-contingency plan in place, the greater the benefits we will all reap via a plan that is acceptable to all Arizona water users.

Tom Buschatzke is director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Ted Cooke is the general manager of the Central Arizona Project.

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.