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CAP Blog - Water Ways and Power Lines
Meeting the challenges of structural deficits, population growth and climate change
Central Arizona Project is Arizona’s largest source of renewable water supplies—providing 500 billion gallons of water each year to residents, businesses and farms in central and southern Arizona. CAP’s impact goes beyond quenching thirst—it’s also an economic engine for the state, generating $100 billion in benefit each year.
But lately, CAP and other Colorado River basin states have been facing the daunting hurdle of an ongoing drought, now in its 15th year. The lower Colorado River basin states (Arizona, California and New Mexico) use roughly 1.2 million acre feet more each year than is typically released by Lake Powell. This has resulted in a drop in Lake Mead of 12 to 15 feet for each year of these overdrafts. This has created what is known as a structural deficit that threatens the long-term viability of water deliveries and power generation. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, could fall below 1,000 feet in the next four to eight years, even with reduced water deliveries.
Add to that the challenges of population growth (over the next 10 years, it’s estimated the lower basin states will see an increase of more than five million people) and climate change (according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the average temperature along the Colorado River basin could increase by five to six degrees by the latter part of the 21st century)—and you can see we have a real challenge on our hands.
With these threats at hand, it’s clear that no one program or technology can resolve all the issues. CAP and Arizona have successfully implemented conservation programs and have been storing water underground. We are prepared to handle reduced water supplies. Ultimately there are three courses of action to address potential water shortfalls—reducing demand, increasing supply and mitigating system losses—and all three strategies must be implemented at once.
Conservation, cooperation and wise water planning are crucial to ensure our quality of life and bright economic future.
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Conserve Water While Maintaining Beautiful Landscape
With drought in the news on a near-daily basis, many Arizonans are looking for ways to do their part with regard to water conservation. One way is to convert landscaping from lush, green lawns to low-water use plants. But that doesn’t mean you’re limited to rocks and cactus. You can still have plenty of green and lots of color – even a “lush look” – by selecting plants that are drought-hardy, tolerant of both heat and cold and adapted to desert soil conditions.
Colorado River System Conservation Program to Address Drought
For more than a decade, a severe drought — one of the worst in the last 1,200 years — has gripped the Colorado River, causing the world’s most extensive storage reservoir system to come closer and closer to critically low water levels. The region moved a step closer to addressing the long-term effects of this imbalance last week when municipal water providers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado signed a landmark water conservation agreement with the federal government. The agreement -- the Colorado River System Conservation Program -- was developed in support of the Colorado River basin states’ drought contingency planning.
EPA NGS Ruling Provides Certainty for Arizona Water and Power Customers
Central Arizona Project received good news this week when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its final regional haze rule under the Clean Air Act. This Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) ruling provided an emission reduction plan for the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) that incorporates major elements of a proposal made by the Technical Work Group (TWG). The TWG consists of representatives from the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (which operates CAP), Environmental Defense Fund, Gila River Indian Community, Navajo Nation, Salt River Project (on behalf of itself and the other NGS owners), the U.S. Department of the Interior and Western Resource Advocates. While the rule is lengthy and will require a detailed review, TWG members have expressed appreciation that the EPA’s final rule reflects the group’s “better-than-BART” recommendations.