Future Water Distribution
Arizona’s Colorado River entitlement priority system is important when the river system’s water storage is not sufficient to meet the downstream demand of the Lower Basin states. During the last decade, extremely dry conditions led to the development of criteria for reducing water deliveries during shortage. In December, 2007, the Secretary of Interior adopted the first shortage criteria developed for the Colorado River. If the elevation of Lake Mead is projected to be at or below 1,075 feet, and above 1,050 feet, Arizona’s Colorado River water deliveries will be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet. If Mead drops below elevation 1,050 feet, and is at or above 1,025 feet, Arizona’s supply will be reduced by 400,000 acre-feet. If Mead drops below elevation 1,025 feet, Arizona’s supply will be reduced by 480,000 acre-feet. In addition, on an annual basis, the Basin States will consult with the Secretary to determine whether hydrologic conditions coupled with the projected annual Lower Basin water deliveries will potentially cause Lake Mead's elevation to drop below 1,000 feet and to discuss further measures that will be taken.
In Arizona, sixth and fifth priority water uses will be eliminated first during shortage. Then fourth priority water uses will be reduced. Approximately 90 percent of the reduction will be allocated to the CAP; the other 10 percent will be allocated to equivalent priority mainstream Colorado River water users. An entity that is interested in acquiring a Colorado River water entitlement should consider the priority of the entitlement and the potential impact of future shortage supply reductions when evaluating the feasibility of the acquisition.
CAP Priority System
Within the CAP’s fourth priority water supply there is also a unique priority system. Municipal/Industrial and Indian priority water has the highest priority, and is the last to be reduced during times of shortage. Municipal/Industrial priority water subcontracts total 638,823 acre-feet. Indian priority water totals 343,079 acre-feet. Non-Indian agricultural (NIA) water has a lower priority. The NIA pool totals 364,968 acre-feet. The lowest priority CAP water is excess pool water, and the amount varies depending upon how much Arizona Colorado River water is unused by other entitlement holders in a given year. In general, excess water supplies will decrease over time as existing entitlement holders increase their water demands.
Future CAP Reallocation
The Arizona Water Settlements Act (Act) became fully enforceable in 2008. The Act includes a provision authorizing the Department to develop a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior to reallocate up to 96,295 acre-feet of NIA water. The Department cannot make a recommendation to the Secretary before January 1, 2010. The Department will conduct a public input process to develop a recommendation to the Secretary for how this water should be allocated between interested qualifying parties. The Department will circulate a statewide request for letters of interest from water providers that wish to be considered for an allocation. The Department had planned to initiate the process in late 2008, however, due to mounting budget constraints, the Department will not be able to begin this process until sometime in the future. Once the evaluation process is initiated, the Department anticipates that it will be very competitive.
Urban communities within the three county CAP service area (Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties) have expressed an interest in increasing their CAP water supplies by acquiring the available NIA water. Rural communities located outside of the CAP service area have also expressed an interest in this water supply, but face the additional challenge of demonstrating how the acquisition of NIA water will result in a physically available water supply. Careful planning is also needed to mitigate expected NIA water supply reductions during future shortage operations.
Occasionally, an existing CAP Municipal/Industrial subcontract entitlement is available for transfer. The Department has a substantive policy statement titled Revised Policy Regarding Transfer of Central Arizona Project Municipal and Industrial Water Subcontract Entitlements which describes how the Department will evaluate competing applications for a CAP subcontract entitlement transfer. As municipalities with CAP subcontracts continue to grow and utilize their full CAP subcontract entitlements, fewer transfer actions are anticipated.
The Department’s Colorado River Transfer Policy
The Department has a substantive policy statement titled Policy and Procedures for Transferring an Entitlement of Colorado River Water. This policy statement describes how the Department will evaluate the proposed transfer of a non-Indian, mainstream Colorado River water entitlement. In addition to the Department’s evaluation and development of a recommendation, other factors should be considered when pursuing the transfer of a mainstream Colorado River entitlement. The transfer or lease of Indian entitlement requires Congressional authorization. If the proposed transfer involves water associated with lands located within an irrigation district, the district must approve the transfer. In addition, city and/or county economic impacts should be considered and environmental compliance may be required.
Transmittal of the Basin Study Proposal - Colorado River Basin States
The US Department of the Interior has transmitted the Basin Study Proposal developed collaboratively among the seven Colorado
River Basin States and the Bureau of Reclamation.