Central Arizona Project Supports Draft Legislation For DCP

By Bret Jaspers
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 4:56pm
Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 7:06pm

The board of the Central Arizona Project on Thursday voted to support the draft legislation for the Drought Contingency Plan, a major water savings deal in the Colorado River basin.

Thing is, there still aren’t any bills formally sponsored in the state Legislature.

The draft legislation, released last week by the Arizona Department of Water Resources, would enact some of the parts of Arizona’s internal drought plan:

  • A Joint Resolution authorizing the Director of ADWR to sign the multi-state and multinational Drought Contingency Plan on behalf of the state.
  • Creation of a fund for groundwater infrastructure in Pinal County. This also repurposes a groundwater pumping fee in Pinal County to use the money for groundwater infrastructure.
  • Creation of a fund for water designated as “system conservation,” i.e., water that stays in the Colorado River system. This also allows ADWR to be a fiscal agent for non-governmental organizations contributing $8 million for this kind of conservation. Gov. Doug Ducey has pledged $30 million to this fund from the state general fund.
  • Allow the state Water Banking Authority to act as a middleman (and to waive a transaction fee) to exchange credits earned by storing water in one “Active Management Area” for storage credits earned in another AMA. — a limited repeal of the WaterBUD statute (which stands for “water that cannot reasonably be used directly”). WaterBUD currently bans an entity from getting credits for storing surface water underground if it is also pumping groundwater. The limited repeal lets the utility EPCOR send surface water to a groundwater savings facility in Pinal County and accrue storage credits for that water.
  • Increase the amount of long term storage credits earned for recharging effluent in some recharge facilities. The credit amount would change from 50 percent of the recharge amount to 95 percent. These credits could also be applied towards an assured or adequate water supply designation for development. The credits could also be accrued beyond a current sunset of 2025. This is legislation the City of Tucson wanted in exchange for making some surface water available to Pinal County if needed.

And there are other agreements that don’t need to become law — those are still being finalized.

The CAP’s support is an important step, showing momentum while the state (and basin) waits on the Legislature.

“We’ve done our part to get it ready for that,” said CAP General Manager Ted Cooke.

The DCP is designed to last until 2026 and leave more water in Lake Mead, which has been declining at an uncomfortably fast rate due to over-allocation and drought. Farms in Pinal County, along with some cities and tribes, are facing stiff cuts to their supplies under DCP, and Arizona’s internal plan is aimed at easing the pain.

Many stakeholders have said they can "live with" the Arizona plan in order to boost the Lake. About 40 water leaders from various interest groups have met publicly and privately since July to hammer out the deal.

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