Water is Arizona’s most precious resource—it grows our food, it provides vibrant recreational opportunities, it fuels Arizona’s growing economy, and sustains fish and wildlife habitat across the state. But Arizona is at a crossroads with its water security, and we are facing an uncertain future. Arizona and the West are in a ‘new normal’ with less water for human and natural uses than in the past—calling it a “drought” assumes things will go back to the old normal…but evidence shows that they won’t. Population growth over recent decades, coupled with declining snowpacks and rising temperatures is stretching water supplies to the limit, threatening some of the very things we love so much about living here. If you think of our water supply like a bank account, we are withdrawing more than we deposit.
Arizona must implement effective water policies to help our state live within our means and only use as much water as we need. It is essential that we maintain secure water supplies for cities, farms and ranches, and businesses as well as for wildlife habitat. To do that, we must all work together, creatively, to confront and design a sustainable water future that serves the needs of our economy, our recreational lifestyle, and the wildlife that depends on it.
Nearly half of Arizona’s water is provided by the Colorado River, and with dramatic overuse across the Southwest, coupled with the prolonged 18-year drought and a new normal of less water to go around, there are risks to Arizona’s lifestyle and economic vitality. Our supply of Colorado River water is measured and managed by levels in Lake Mead, on our northern border with Nevada, but due to reduced flows into the river and demand that exceeds supply, Lake Mead has been dropping rapidly.
In decades past, as Arizona was grappling with growth, the state took the lead in responsible water management, especially addressing chronic overuse of groundwater. Now, we have an opportunity to lead on this issue again, and if we come together we can solve this problem. Leaders from California, Arizona, and Nevada, along with the US and Mexican governments, have recently come together to negotiate an agreement that will work hand-in-hand to store more water in Lake Mead. This agreement is called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or LBDCP, and it is critical for our long-term water security to sustain our state’s economic future.
Here are our three priorities:
- Lake Mead is at risk and we need to act. We must live within our means and balance our needs against the health of the river. We need to create flexibility with water and find creative ways to store any extra we may have in Lake Mead. We must take a long-range approach to water security for the state and the region.
- It is essential to maintain secure water supplies for cities, farms and ranches, businesses, as well as wildlife habitat. Arizona’s surface water and natural river corridors support our State’s multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry of hunting, fishing, birding, rafting, and tourism.
- Protecting our groundwater supply is critical for both the health of Arizona’s environment and the sustainability of our farms and businesses. We are all in this together!
Arizona leaders have a long tradition of successfully managing our State’s most precious resource. We are facing a pressing problem and believe it is critical that the public and our state leaders join together to pass smart water policies to protect Arizona’s Colorado River water supply and ensure we have enough to meet the state’s needs.
- Support the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan (LBDCP): The Lower Colorado Basin DCP is a proposal currently under consideration that aims to protect Lake Mead’s elevation from dropping to critical levels that would mandate cutbacks to Arizona’s water supplies. The Coalition is working towards authorization by the Arizona Legislature that would then be signed by AZ, CA, NV and the Bureau of Reclamation. This must also be done to satisfy an agreement between the United States and Mexico that allows Mexico to store some of it’s Colorado River water in Lake Mead as well.
- Support a Long-Term Colorado River Conservation Plan: This would establish an ongoing and collaborative process to ensure Lake Mead elevations are always protected. The plan would estimate conservation volumes needed on a yearly basis to ensure Lake Mead elevations do not fall to the point at which Arizona will experience harmful shortages. The Coalition supports a plan that would assure water users that the water they choose to forbear and conserve in Lake Mead will benefit all Arizonans, and not be consumed by another water user.
- Support Implementation of Tribal Intentionally Created Surplus (ICS) water: Under such a plan, a tribe can reduce current water use and store that water in Lake Mead, without penalty. The tribe would then have the right to withdrawal their water when they need it, although not be allowed to sell or transfer that water to any other state.
- Support Improving the Operation of the Arizona Water Bank: Because our Colorado River water supplies are less certain, we need to have greater flexibility around how we can begin to access the water Arizona has been storing underground since 1997. Creating opportunities to monitor and reduce our groundwater consumption, and ideally create solutions for storing more water in the aquifer and recovering more water in times of need benefits the state over the long term.
- Support Groundwater measuring and reporting: as a pilot project in counties where recognition of the urgency of groundwater protection is critical to their sustainability and economy.
The Water for Arizona Coalition is a community of Arizonans who support innovative practices and smart policies to ensure a reliable water supply to meet the state’s needs. Organizational support is provided by solution-oriented groups like American Rivers, Audubon Arizona, Business for Water Stewardship, Environmental Defense Action Fund, and Western Resource Advocates that collectively have over 60,000 Arizona members, as well as hundreds of hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts across the state. Kevin Moran, a longtime Arizonan and former government relations consultant and Cox Communications executive, is the Chairman of the Coalition.
Coalition Members currently include:
- American Rivers – Jeff Odefey
- Audubon Arizona – Sonia Perillo
- Business for Water Stewardship – Nicole Gonzalez Patterson
- Environmental Defense Action Fund – Kevin Moran
- Western Resource Advocates – Kim Mitchell
Learn more, and keep in touch with us. We welcome your thoughts, insights, and solutions, and we need to all work together to create a sustainable water future for Arizona.
Please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org