#ColoradoRiver: Upper Basin and @CAPArizona Resolve to Return to Collaborative Relationship; CAWCD Commits to Working with Arizona Stakeholders to Chart Path Forward on Drought Contingency Plan #COriver

Colorado River Road. Once you get on it, it’s hard to get off. Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release from the Central Arizona Project (DeEtte Person):

Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) is grateful for the opportunity to have met on April 30th with the Upper Colorado River Commission representing Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and the United States. In addition, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) and Denver Water participated in the meeting on the phone.

Concerns from the Upper Basin Commissioners were heard and respected, and there was a productive discussion. All parties recognize there is still much work to do. The Commissioners and CAWCD are resolved to returning to the collaborative processes, and important relationships, that have defined the successes for which the Colorado River Basin has been famous for two decades. The meeting was an opportunity to express intent, and going forward we must focus on results.

CAWCD regrets that intra-Arizona issues have impacted other parties in the Colorado River basin. Specifically, CAWCD regrets using language and representations that were insensitive to Upper Basin concerns, and resolves to have a more respectful and transparent dialogue in the future. [ed. emphasis mine]

As a result of the meeting, CAWCD has committed to beginning a fresh conversation within Arizona, including with ADWR and other stakeholders, to chart a path forward for an effective Drought Contingency Plan. We believe that a renewed collaborative process will ultimately support development of broad-based solutions with our Colorado River Basin colleagues to benefit the entire Colorado River system.

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

The Central Arizona Project, which provides water to about 5 million people, pledged to be more cooperative with other river users and promised “to have a more respectful and transparent dialogue in the future.”

[…]

The tension boiled over last month after the Arizona utility said it was trying to keep water levels in a major reservoir high enough to avoid any reduction in its share but low enough to require other users to send more water into the river.

That angered officials in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah, who accused the Central Arizona Project of manipulating the water at the expense of others and putting the entire river system in jeopardy.

James Eklund, Colorado’s representative on Colorado River issues, said the Arizona utility’s goal was “gaming the system.”

The Central Arizona Project initially denied the accusations and described its approach as good management. But after meeting with its critics Monday in Salt Lake City, the utility released a statement saying it “regrets using language and representations that were insensitive” to other river users.

It also pledged to cooperate on drawing up a multi-state plan for possible shortages in the river, which appear more and more likely because of the drought and climate change.

Other users had grown impatient over delays in completing the drought plans and accused the Central Arizona Project of stalling to avoid the water cutbacks the plans might require.

Colorado and Wyoming officials said Tuesday they were encouraged by the Central Arizona Project’s new statement but were waiting to see how it follows through.

“I think we heard an apology yesterday, certainly for the rhetoric they used,” said Patrick T. Tyrrell, Wyoming’s representative on the Colorado River. “The jury’s probably still out till we see what happens with their actions going forward.”

No single authority oversees the river — instead, it is governed by international treaties, interstate agreements and court rulings known collectively as “the law of the river.” The seven states in the Colorado River system are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming…

For years, the seven states, the federal government and Mexico have relied largely on negotiations to settle their disagreements without public rancor or lawsuits. That made the Arizona dispute stand out and prompted critics to say the Central Arizona Project was threatening to wreck the cooperative spirit of the river states.

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