Wheeling, firming and exchanges aren’t words Central Arizona Project (CAP) throws around lightly, but those three words are the basis of an historic agreement recently signed by Central Arizona Project and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The “CAP System Use Agreement” increases the reliability and flexibility of the state’s single largest renewable water supply by creating a legal framework to allow wheeling, firming and exchanges in the CAP system.
Firming refers to the use of water that has been stored underground to increase the reliability of CAP supplies during shortage; wheeling is when the CAP system is used to transport new water supplies; and exchanges are arrangements in which a delivery of CAP water is legally swapped with an alternate supply.
“This Agreement provides us with the flexibility for cost-effective recovery of stored water, including more than four million acre-feet of CAP water stored in the aquifers of Central and Southern Arizona,” said General Manager Ted Cooke. “I would like to thank the negotiators from the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation, along with the significant contributions from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Arizona Water Banking Authority.”
“CAP is also fortunate to benefit from the solid backing of the entire Arizona Congressional delegation, particularly Senator Flake, who took the lead on this issue. The collaboration of the Governor, as well as Arizona's agricultural organizations, municipalities and tribes was critical to this effort. Nowhere will one find a better example of teamwork,” said Lisa Atkins, CAP board President.
Reaching agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation was necessary because the CAP is a federal project that is subject to a complex set of existing agreements and laws. The System Use Agreement unifies provisions of multiple agreements and resolves many long-standing issues related to CAP’s operation of the system. By establishing an overall framework, the agreement will allow the CAP infrastructure to be used in more efficient and innovative ways. Those innovations are crucial to the success of efforts by CAP and state water agencies to manage risks from drought and shortages on the Colorado River, and they are consistent with Arizona’s long-standing commitment to proactive water management.