Economy – Birds – Wildlife Depend on Drought Plan for Colorado River

Western Rivers Action Network Leaders –

Monsoon rain is finally here, but a few good storms won’t be enough to solve Arizona and the Colorado River Basin’s water challenges.  Read on for a recap of the big news in Arizona water over the last couple of months.

Arizona is moving forward with a new commitment to implement the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), a multi-state agreement which would leave more Colorado River water behind Hoover Dam and prop up Lake Mead levels to prevent catastrophic shortages. On June 28, United States Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman brought the parties together to discuss the poor hydrology of the Colorado River Basin and to reactivate stalled talks on the subject. A steering committee process to work out an intra-Arizona deal to make these cuts palatable to Central Arizona Project water users begins July 26. The goal of the steering committee is to work out compromises between parties, and for the Arizona Department of Water Resources Director to be granted authority to sign onto the Drought Contingency Plan in early 2019 when the next legislative session begins.

Audubon’s work on water is for all of us – taking care of birds and the environment is taking care of people and their water. And the converse is true too: taking care of people and their water supply is taking care of the birds and the environment. Below are some key talking points to keep in mind, and share with your networks as the state moves forward with a plan to reduce our risk of water shortages.

Talking Points:

  • This summer, the Bureau of Reclamation issued predictions that there is a 52 percent chance of shortage conditions at Lake Mead beginning in 2020, with a greater than 60 percent likelihood of shortage thereafter. Those are numbers that should give every Arizonan pause – it risks our economic and environmental livelihood.
  • Arizona relies on the Colorado River for about 40 percent of our water supply, but demand for water from the Colorado River far exceeds supply. We need to live within our means and only use as much water as the Colorado River can supply us with.
  • Nearly 90 percent of Arizona residents think low water supplies are a serious problem, and they have expressed overwhelming support for bold actions from the state to ensure the sustainable use of our water resources.
  • It’s imperative that we plan for the long-term, and best way of doing that is to take urgent action to finish developing — and begin implementing — a Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.

Recent News:

 

Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) News and Lake Mead Levels:

Connecting the Dots: From DCP and Lake Mead to Protecting Flowing Rivers and Habitat – Why birders and wildlife advocates should care about Lake Mead

Audubon, Haley Paul

June, 2018

“Water management policies that provide more certainty and reliability for all users are of critical importance to Arizona’s economy as well as its cities, farmers, birds, and other wildlife.”

Using less and paying more.  A conundrum it seems, until you dig a little deeper – Doing nothing about the Colorado River’s decline is too risky

Audubon, Haley Paul

July, 2018

“DCP acts as an insurance policy to buy down risk. We buy down the risk of climate change and an over-allocated Colorado River system by using less water now. Our economies and our environment depend on it.”

Falling Lake Mead Water Levels Prompt Detente in Arizona Feud

Wall Street Journal, Jim Carlton

July 2018

“Nevada, California—and Mexico—have mostly agreed to a regional Drought Contingency Plan that would adopt more reductions in the amount of water drawn from the river. But bureaucratic infighting between two Arizona agencies had delayed adoption of the plan.

Arizona groups try to agree on water cutback plan for falling Lake Mead levels

Phoenix Business Journal, Patrick O’Grady

July 2018

“Arizona groups are attempting to come together on a plan for water conservation should Lake Mead water levels continue to drop and the state have to cut back on its Colorado River allotment.”

Opinion: Arizona’s water supply could face catastrophic cuts by 2026 if something doesn’t change

Arizona Republic, Joanna Allhands

July 2018

“The risk of catastrophic shortages at Lake Mead is simply too high for Arizona not to join the Drought Contingency Plan, which aims to minimize it.”

Arizona commits to drought plan for Colorado River

Associated Press, Felicia Fonseca

June 2018

“Arizona water officials committed Thursday to reach a multi-state plan by the end of the year to stave off Colorado River water shortages, or at least lessen the impact.”

Colorado River Reservoirs Expected To Be Less Than Half Full, Headed Toward Historic Low

KUNC Public Radio, Luke Runyon

June 2018

“Reservoirs that store water along the Colorado River are projected to be less than half full later this year, potentially marking a historic low mark for the river system that supplies water to seven U.S. states and Mexico.”

New USBR modeling suggests a bigger risk of Colorado River shortage than y’all might think

Inkstain, John Fleck

June 2018

“A new approach to modeling risk, which lots of folks (*cough* me *cough*) think more accurately represents the changing climate, shows a significant risk of a much quicker drop in Lake Mead’s levels, blowing quickly past 1,075, with a greater than 50 percent chance of dropping below 1,050 sometime in 2020.”

Water, Natural Resources, and Drought:

Tap once for warbler: Phone app lets you count Arizona birds for nature research

Arizona Republic, Joshua Bowling

May 2018

“The organization doesn’t have a lot of available data on which birds live along rivers and streams in the Western U.S., so it’s asking birders — both green and veteran — to visit key locations, record their findings in an app and share the information.”

Volunteers hauling water to help wildlife survive drought

FOX 10

July 2018

“Bear, mountain lions, deer and elk are searching for water in residential areas, because there is none in the wild. However, one group of volunteers is trying to help by delivering thousands of gallons of water to wildlife in need.”

Healthy Arizona Forests Are Vital To Valley Water Supplies

AMWUA, Warren Tenney

July 2018

“If you live in the Phoenix Metro Area, more than half your drinking water likely comes from the Salt and Verde rivers. Springs, streams and wetlands in a 13,000-square-mile watershed feed these mountain rivers. In recent decades the watershed, which includes five National Forests, has been battered by extraordinary wildfires.”

Desert city Phoenix mulls ways to quench thirst of sprawling suburbs

Reuters, Marcello Rossi

June 2018

“Further rapid expansion could prove challenging at a time when water supplies are dwindling, as warming temperatures increasingly affect the western United States, scientists warn.”

San Pedro River:

BLM Adds 4th Public Meeting to Draft Resource Management Plan for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

Bureau of Land Management

July 2018

“The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has added an additional meeting to the previously announced schedule of public meetings for the Draft Resource Management Plan for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.”

For more news on Arizona’s rivers and water, visit our Water in the News page!

Western Rivers Monitoring and Resources:

Conditions Map

Colorado Basin River Forecast Center
National Weather Service/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Arizona Drought Contingency Planning Website
Arizona Department of Water Resources

Arizona Drought Map

United States Drought Monitor

National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Colorado River Interactive Dashboard

Arizona Department of Water Resources

Watershed Connection

Salt River Project

CAP News
News Blog
Central Arizona Project

Arizona Water News
News Blog
Arizona Department of Water Resources

For more ways to track Arizona’s rivers, visit our WRAN Resources Page!

Upcoming Meetings:

Planning for the Future of the San Pedro: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has scheduled public meetings for the Draft Resource Management Plan for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Members of the public can review the draft plan and provide public comments until September 27, 2018. The draft is available for the public to review and provide comments on the BLM ePlanning website.  Comments may also be submitted by fax to 520.258.7238.

Meeting Information

    • Monday, July 30th: Sierra Vista Police Department, 811 N. Coronado Drive, Sierra Vista, AZ (meeting attendees should use the lobby entrance)
    • Wednesday, August 8th: Benson Fire Department Station 71, 375 E. 7th Street, Benson, AZ
    • Wednesday, August 22nd: Sierra Vista Police Department, 811 N. Coronado Drive, Sierra Vista, AZ (meeting attendees should use the lobby entrance)
    • Thursday, August 23rd: Pima Community College, 401 N. Bonita Avenue, Tucson, AZ

For more ways to stand up for Western Rivers, visit our Take Action page!

Thank you for all you do to help us protect flow in the Colorado River Basin for habitats, birds, other wildlife, communities, and economies.  As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments, or input.

Yours in Conservation,
The Arizona WRAN Team
Audubon Arizona
azwran@audubon.org
602.468.6470