This week, CAP hosted Stakeholder Workshops to discuss the Drought Contingency Plan. The Lower Colorado Basin DCP is a proposal currently under consideration that aims to protect Lake Mead’s elevation from dropping to critical levels. It specifies voluntary reductions for each of the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – in order to protect the water in Lake Mead. Lake Mead water levels are important because they determine whether a shortage is declared on the Colorado River.
All the states that share the river, the federal government and Mexico previously agreed to shortage “trigger levels” and resulting reduced delivery amounts in a 2007 shortage sharing agreement. But, the DCP proposes earlier and deeper reductions to Colorado River supplies for Arizona and Nevada beyond those agreed-upon limits. In addition, California for the first time ever, would be asked to take reductions in its Colorado River deliveries if Lake Mead dipped to specified levels.
Why do we need the DCP now?
While Arizona is not currently facing a water crisis, falling water levels in Lake Mead mean all Colorado River users are facing an uncertain future without additional proactive efforts. At the lower lake levels, there is uncertainty regarding what additional reductions the federal government would impose on Colorado River water users including CAP, and Arizona’s higher priority users. Taking additional actions now will help ensure that Lake Mead will continue to serve the needs of the Lower Basin and provide greater certainty for Arizona and CAP water users.
What are the benefits of the DCP?
Declining water and power supplies will have far-reaching impacts. By working together and voluntarily agreeing to the DCP, all Lower Basin states will enact temporary reductions to protect Lake Mead’s elevation from dropping to critical levels. This is not a permanent loss of water entitlement, so when the system recovers, we could choose to restore our uses.
How would the water reductions impact Arizonans?
Under the DCP, Arizona would agree to take earlier reductions in its share of the Colorado River than those outlined in the 2007 shortage sharing guidelines to stabilize the level of Lake Mead. This strategy allows the lake level to better withstand long-term shortages without falling as quickly. The Arizona Department of Water Resources is working with all Colorado River water users in Arizona to determine how water reductions would be shared.
Has Arizona already agreed to the DCP?
No. While Arizona representatives have participated in the development of the DCP, Arizona will not commit to the proposal without consensus among Arizona water users and firm commitments are received from California, Nevada and the United States. Additionally, any agreement will require approval from the Arizona State Legislature. Discussions among Arizona water users to consider the risks and benefits of the DCP and how it could be implemented within Arizona are currently underway. Success will require participation of all those who depend upon Colorado River water.