What Western States say About a Drought Contingency Plan
“The governor’s office has convened a group of stakeholders to examine the current status of Arizona’s water laws, policies and practices with respect to both Colorado River and groundwater issues with the goal of determining where improvements should be made. There are some areas where REALTORS® need to be concerned, specifically anything that addresses assured water supply, wells and water rights.”
– Nicole LaSlavic, Arizona REALTORS® VP of Government Affairs, at the 2017 REALTOR® Caucus
Abridged from a 91.5 KJZZ-FM news story that aired Dec. 18, 2017
Steve Goldstein: A drought contingency plan continues to play a vital role in determining the short and potentially long term future of the Colorado River, and how much of its water several western states, including Arizona, will be eligible to use.
Last week, the Colorado River Users Association wrapped up its annual conference in Las Vegas. Ry Rivard, water and energy reporter with The Voice of San Diego covered the conference and is with me. Ry, What have the participants, including Arizona and California, been saying about this drought contingency plan?
We understand that the internal politics in Arizona are causing some problems.
Ry Rivard: In California, there were some internal politics that were creating some uncertainty about whether all of California would agree to the plan. Those seem to have sort of calmed down, but now we understand that the internal politics in Arizona are causing some problems.
Over the long term, you just have to imagine that, with there being more demand for Colorado River water than there is probably going to be in the Colorado River, something has to be worked out.
Steve Goldstein: Does it feel like the states want to be on board and not end up in court?
Ry Rivard: Technocrats and bureaucrats that go to meetings like this in Vegas have been working together for years and years. That doesn’t mean they get along. Sometimes they’re in court with each other, but if they can work out a deal, they’re interested in working that out amongst themselves.
Our rights in California are so secure that the Central Arizona Project would have to run dry before California legally has to lose a single drop.
The sort of nightmare scenario, I think, for everybody is under the deal worked out in the 1960s. California really has first dibs on the water in the Colorado, at least in the lower basin. Our rights in California are so secure that the Central Arizona Project would have to run dry before California legally has to lose a single drop. That’s obviously politically impossible to imagine happening, now that Phoenix is the size that it is and Tucson has grown as it has.
Steve Goldstein: Does the word “conservation” ever come up at meetings like this? In Arizona, we don’t hear it that much.
Ry Rivard: In California, certainly Governor Brown has encouraged a lot of don’t water your lawn when it’s raining kind of stuff. Then there’s a certain other kind of conservation…taking water that’s used for farming and sending it to cities. Sometimes that means farmers can become more efficient at what they’re doing or sometimes it means fallowing, which I know is incredibly unpopular in parts of Colorado, parts of California and parts of Arizona.
Steve Goldstein: Whether it comes to a drought contingency plan…has there been discussion about banking water or whatnot…making sure that more of these states have some preparation and not relying so much on ground water for example?
Ry Rivard: In California in particular, there’s an awareness that ground water is not an infinite resource. You see parts of the state are actually sinking…because we’ve drawn so much ground water. We have sort of come to the realization that we need to heavily regulate that, something I think Arizona has already been doing for quite some time, but California is just coming around to that.
Overview of the Arizona Groundwater Management Code – Arizona Dept. of Water Resources