Drought plan for the Southwest stalled
It also calls for an international plan to respond to drought conditions in Lake Mead that would include Mexico in water reductions.
At the time of Minute 323’s approval, Sen. Jeff Flake, R- Arizona, called the deal “a major step forward in guaranteeing a reliable long-term water supply by protecting Arizona’s share of the Colorado River” and said the binational deal was “setting the table for the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.” That drought response plan would call on California, Nevada, Arizona, Mexico and the Bureau of Reclamation to reduce their shares of the Colorado River water in times of drought, according to Sarah Porter, the director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University.
“What it is really about is creating an accounting system for water forbearance,” Porter said.
“The plan creates an incentive for all the lower basin states, and the big water players to keep their water in Lake Mead, ensuring its levels.” Even though serious negotiations are ongoing, however, the draft plan is far from completion.
Another major problem facing the reservoir is the structural deficit, when more water is pulled out of the river than is recharged in the reservoir.
“It creates an incentive for all lower basin states, and fosters big water users to keep water in the lake, which provides more security for everyone.” One of the largest water consumers in Arizona are the state’s agriculture industry, which would be among the first and hardest hit by a drought contingency plan.
“We have to resolve how to absorb the impacts of some of the lowest priority parties, like the farmers whose livelihoods depend on the water,” Porter said.
“We need to have a plan to address the impacts on agriculture.” “Arizona farmers have been the most efficient with their water, more than any other state – we produce more crops now with less water than even ten years ago,” he said.
“Central Arizona Project, who represents the customers of CAP and is well-funded from Colorado River Water, or the Arizona Department of Water Resources, whose job it is to represent all of Arizona’s water interests and is significantly underfunded?” And analysts are hopeful that the confirmation last month of Brenda Burman as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation can speed negotiations.
Burman, a former staffer for Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, has worked at the bureau and at the Salt River Project in Arizona, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Nature Conservancy, among other stops.