In order to ensure a reliable, renewable water resource for central and southern Arizona, Central Arizona Project operators and planners keep a close watch on local and regional watersheds. The status of those watersheds helps illuminate the near-term future of our Colorado River water supplies.

Current conditions on the Colorado, Salt and Verde River systems indicate that CAP will have a normal water supply over the next two years. El Nino conditions in the Pacific reduced snowpack in the upper Colorado River basin. But, it also fueled a wet winter and spring in the Salt, Verde, Agua Fria and Bill Williams watersheds, resulting in full reservoirs and release of excess water to the Colorado River, reducing the amount of water released from Lake Mead. Lake Mead is expected to finish 2010 at an elevation of 1088' above sea level.

However, there is a 15-20% probability that in 2012, Lake Mead will have fallen an additional 13 feet to 1075', triggering a declaration of ‘shortage' on the Colorado River. Should the Secretary of the Interior declare a shortage, CAP, with the lowest priority to Colorado River water, would have its annual entitlement reduced by 288,000 acre-feet (93 billion gallons) or roughly 18 percent.

"This level of shortage would not impact CAP deliveries to cities and other high priority customers," explained CAP General Manager David Modeer. "Those customers are not likely to see a shortage before the mid-2020s. But, a shortage in 2012 would reduce excess water available for recharge and storage. We've foreseen that potential for many years, and prepared for this by recharging more than 6 million acre-feet of excess Colorado River water since 1985."

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CAP is the steward of central Arizona's Colorado River water entitlement and a collaborative leader in Arizona's water community. The 336-mile-long CAP system brings about 1.6 million acre-feet of renewable Colorado River water to its customers -- cities, businesses, agriculture and Indian communities -- in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties. An acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons.