#CRWUA2018: Getting To The Finish Line: What’s Next For #ColoradoRiver #Drought Contingency Planning? — @ADWR and @CAPArizona #COriver #aridification @usbr

From the Arizona Department of Water Resources:

Arizona has worked over the course of several years with the other States in the Colorado River Basin and the United States to develop an interstate Drought Contingency Plan to protect Colorado River supplies. Within Arizona, stakeholders have been working to develop an Implementation Plan, a series of agreements that will govern the way that certain terms of the DCP will be implemented within Arizona once the DCP is effective.

The Implementation Plan is nearly in place. However, we’re not yet able to say it’s “done.”

Last week, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced a deadline of January 31, 2019, for the states to complete their work on the DCP.

“To date, (the Department of) Interior has been very supportive and extremely patient with the pace of progress on the DCP,” said the Commissioner at the annual meetings of the Colorado River Water Users Association. “But delay increases the risk for us all.”

“I am here today to tell you all that we will act if needed to protect this basin.”

So, what needs to happen for Arizonans to officially say “the plan is done?” And further. . . then what?

AZDCP Implementation

Arizona’s participation in the interstate DCP requires a resolution by the Arizona State Legislature authorizing the Director of ADWR to sign the necessary interstate agreements. To facilitate a smooth legislative process, some additional discussion regarding the Implementation Plan is needed. To that end, ADWR and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (the CAP) are in the process of outlining agreements necessary to turn the Implementation Plan into action. With about six weeks to go, the timing is tight, but all agree it’s “doable.”

Several interstate agreements must be signed to effectuate the DCP. Those agreements include:

Lower Basin DCP

Parties in Arizona, California and Nevada will sign the LBDCP agreement, which includes a document known as the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Operations. In combination with guidelines adopted in 2007, the LBDCP agreement will control operations in the Lower Basin.

Upper Basin DCP

The Upper Colorado River Commission, which includes representatives of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, has approved the Upper Basin documents – the Upper Basin Drought Response Operations Agreement and the Upper Basin Demand Management Storage Agreement. This means that, as a group, the Upper Basin states are prepared to sign the DCP.

The “Companion Agreement”

A Companion Agreement will bind the Upper Basin and Lower Basin agreements together.

Federal legislation will be required authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to sign the interstate DCP agreements as well.

The AZDCP Steering Committee will meet again to discuss the AZDCP Implementation Framework at a meeting to be held from 1 to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 8, at CAP headquarters, 23636 N. 7th St., Phoenix.


Native American tribal leaders attended the Colorado River Water Users Association conference and spoke on opportunities and challenges for tribal communities.

“The Colorado River Indian Tribe was blessed with senior water rights on the river so what our purpose is in this is to offer whatever help or assistance we can to the state of Arizona because we all live together in this area,” said Keith Moses, vice chairman for the tribe in La Paz County in western Arizona. “Everything that we do affects each one of us be it our tribe or those around us.”

Moses said his community is working with people including farmers in the Yuma area to mitigate any impact of water cutbacks.

During a session at a Caesar’s Palace ballroom, leaders from the Jicarilla Apache and Navajo nations and the Cocopah and Fort Mojave Indian tribes applauded the long awaited release of a tribal water report.

“The tribal study has come to fruition and it will be a resource to learn about the tribes’ diversity, tribal water rights and what we plan to do in order to be a good community partner and help with the drought contingency plan when that comes into play,” said Rosa Long, a councilwoman for the Cocopah.

The Ten Tribes Partnership, which took part in the Las Vegas conference, was formed in 1992 by 10 federally recognized tribes with federal Indian reserved water rights in the Colorado River or its tributaries. Among these tribes are the Ute Indian Tribe and the Quechan Indian Tribe in southwestern Arizona.

A final deal will require federal legislation and approval by Arizona’s legislature before it can be put in action.

Click here to read USBR Commissioner Brenda Burman’s speech from the Colorado River Water Users Association on December 13, 2018

On Hope, Birds, and Tacos — @Audubon #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Great Blue Heron. By Terry Foote (talk) – Own work by the original uploader, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35906678

From Audubon (Karyn Stockdale). Be sure to follow the links to learn about the birds:

Touring the last great wetland of the Colorado River Delta.

Recently, our Audubon Western Water team traveled across the Mexican border to visit the Colorado River Delta and what remains of Aldo Leopold’s green lagoons at the Ciénega de Santa Clara – a birder’s paradise less than 50 miles from the U.S. border. Some 75 percent of the endangered Yuma Ridgway’s Rail (among other species) rely on the Cienega de Santa Clara for food, nesting, and their life cycle.

We crossed at San Luis, Ariz. and were pleased to find that the bombast and hype around this border didn’t seem to phase folks living there. As with many international borders, there’s a sister town on each side that links families, friends and economies.

We toured with our local partners from Pronatura Noroeste, and learned about successful restoration efforts on the Rio Colorado. In just a few short years, native cottonwoods and willows planted and watered by local workers have taken hold in the restored river channels and wetlands. They created mini nurseries in this arid land to grow native plants and bring back wildlife. Walking through the rows and rows of irrigated trees, the Yellow-rumped Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Gila Woodpecker were a delight.

We toured another Colorado River site, called Chausse, where partners Restauremos el Colorado worked similar restoration magic—a birder’s Big Day was taking shape when we saw the Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, and Red-winged Blackbird. Under the shade of some old remnant cottonwoods on the banks of the river, our partners wowed us with a cookout feast of grilled carne asada tacos, roasted chilis and onions, and guacamole. Heaven.

I didn’t think our trip could get any better, but then we found ourselves at the Ciénega de Santa Clara at sunset. This 40,000 acre wetland sits in the Colorado River’s abandoned deltaic floodplain, close to the Sea of Cortez—and it’s full of bird life. From the little dock, the turquoise boat, and up on the nearby watch tower, we spotted White-faced Ibis, American Avocets, American Coots, Common Gallinules, American White Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, and more. With our Mexican birding friends, we had a good laugh at the American naming emphasis for so many of these birds. Perhaps the most memorable bird was the Least Bittern—they called for hours eluding our binoculars and then flushed through the cattails right in front of us as we turned to leave.

The Ciénega de Santa Clara is alive and needs our help to protect it for future generations. There’s more work to be done in the Colorado River Delta, but we are witnessing the positive change envisioned years ago that is bringing back the river and birds that depend on these riparian and wetland habitats. Maybe next trip you’ll join us birding, eat some tacos, and find inspiration too. I returned back to my desk with my head and heart full of hope for our future.

Policies that save bird species will also save the planet.

Martha Gomez-Sapiens, a monitoring team member and postdoctoral research associate in the UA Department of Geosciences, stands on a riverbank next to willows and cottonwoods that germinated as a result of the pulse flow. (Photo: Karl W. Flessa/UA Department of Geosciences)

3 #Drought Planning Questions Arizona Needs to Figure Out, ASAP — Phoenix New Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

From the Phoenix New Times (Elizabeth Whitman):

Arizona has six weeks to finalize its plan to deal with looming shortages on the Colorado River. Otherwise, the federal government will step in.

At a major water conference in Las Vegas last week, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told the Colorado Basin states that they needed to get it together by January 31…

Last year, the Bureau of Reclamation pushed states to finish their plans by the end of the month and spell out how they will deal with cuts to their supply of Colorado River water. The Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming have already done so.

Of the Lower Basin states, only Nevada has settled on a plan. Arizona and California have not…

If they don’t finalize their plans by the end of January, the Department of Interior will ask states to recommend actions that it could take before August 2019. That is the soonest Interior would declare a shortage that would lead to cuts in states’ supply of Colorado River water.

“If Arizona doesn’t act, it seems to me that the other six states, or the Lower Basin, will sit down with the Secretary and put together a secretarial order of administering cuts to Arizona,” said former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, who served as Secretary of the Interior under President Bill Clinton. “That’s never a good idea.”

Here are some of the key issues that Arizona has to figure out, or else:

Number one: Who will sign for Arizona?

The board of the Central Arizona Project, which operates the 336-mile canal bringing water from Lake Mead to Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties in central Arizona, has insisted it should be able to co-sign. It has an elected, 15-member board representing those three counties, and it has set aside $60 million to help pay for the Drought Contingency Plan.

Not so fast, says the Arizona Department of Water Resources, which represents the state and is currently the signing designee.

This turf war, which goes back decades, won’t be resolved in the next six weeks. But the CAP board, the Department of Water Resources, and the Bureau of Reclamation have been working on an agreement that will satisfy CAP’s demands…

Number two: Where will the money come from to help Pinal County farmers?

If a shortage is declared on the Colorado River, Arizona will lose at least 512,000 acre-feet of the 2.8 million acre-feet of water it takes from the river each year. One of the groups that stands to lose the most water, and first, is farmers in Pinal County.

As drought negotiations lurched through the fall, the question loomed of how to compensate farmers for the water they would lose. For several different reasons, no one could agree.

But the plan that was proposed November 29 offered a solution that most Arizona water negotiators could get behind. In a best-case scenario, for the first two years of the Drought Contingency Plan, farmers would receive water that CAP had stored in Lake Mead. That water would be phased out starting in 2022, to be replaced by groundwater…

Number three: The legal stuff

Water might be fluid, but in Arizona, moving it from one place to another is not simply a matter of putting it in a pipe and letting it flow. A ridiculously complex legal framework governs what water can go where and for what and to whom.

For example, Arizona takes surface water directly from the Colorado River. Much of that is used immediately, but some of it is stored below ground. Not all users are legally allowed to store water underground. Those who do can receive credits to withdraw the same amount of water in the future.

This system is so complex that not even the state’s own drought negotiators are clear on how all of this will be worked out. What is clear, however, is that Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan will require some legislative changes, because part of the way the plan would compensate farmers and other users, including cities and tribes, is through an exchange of credits.

Pinal County agricultural districts were hoping that some cities could be persuaded to store some of their water in Pinal County, Orme said. But those cities wanted to be sure they could store water in the Pinal area and still receive credit in their own areas.

Arizona’s Water Banking Authority, which holds credits in all areas, could facilitate that exchange, but “that requires some legislation,” Orme said.

Another needed law change has to do with a statutory definition called WaterBUD, which is shorthand for “Water that cannot reasonably Be Used Directly.” It essentially prohibits users from taking Colorado River water and storing it underground in order to obtain credits if the water could have been used right away. The mitigation plan put forward in November would require a partial repeal of WaterBUD.

Otondo said she would love to see the legislature vote on the Drought Contingency Plan at the beginning of session, in mid-January. “But I just don’t see the language being there and all the details hashed out.” She hoped things would be clearer after Christmas.