After a great deal of hard work in recent weeks, water leaders from across Arizona have made significant progress in the effort to protect Arizona’s Colorado River water supplies.
This progress brings us closer to a statewide agreement on Arizona’s internal plan for implementation of the Drought Contingency Plan. The long, hard-fought struggle to develop an Arizona DCP has not yet concluded, as there are still many details yet to be worked out.
But with the introduction of a plan that addresses Arizona’s broad-ranging interests, I am convinced that we can get this done. This is a plan that can garner bipartisan support.
The budget proposal that I will present to the Legislature next month will include an additional $30 million dedicated to the effort to protect water levels in Lake Mead – a critical part of the system-wide effort to stabilize the entire Colorado River system.
My administration’s commitment of these resources, as well as the financial and water investments that our many partners have committed to this venture, has generated real momentum behind this plan. And for good reason. It is critical to securing Arizona’s water future.
The plan meets these key principles
The “implementation plan,” as presented to the DCP steering committee this week, is consistent with the key principles I have advocated for, and is the result of working together with stakeholders to develop responsible solutions. As I have made clear, I will not agree to any proposal that fails to live up to those stated principles: protecting Lake Mead, transitioning to a drier future and balancing the interests of all water users.
By preserving elevations at Lake Mead, this implementation plan provides unrivaled certainty of supply for water users statewide. Arizonans deserve more than sacrificing the long-term stability of Lake Mead for the short-term benefit of a few.
Arizona is facing a drier future. The Southwest is now well into its second decade of continuous drought. My commitment is to address these issues through long-term drought planning.
Nearly 40 million people rely on the the Colorado River System. Establishing stability requires that we take measures that will continue to bear fruit even as river supplies decrease.
We expect the federal government to issue a shortage declaration on the Colorado River by 2020, and Arizona is well prepared for that reality. But I intend to ensure that Arizona is also prepared for the drier future ahead of us. The implementation plan will help Arizona water users make that transition.
It's fair, complex - and viable
What’s more, the plan on the table is equitable.
The Arizona DCP is an effort to assure that no single community of water users bears the burden of cutbacks to the state’s Colorado River allocation – cutbacks that the long-running drought in the Southwest has all but assured are imminent.
This plan is more comprehensive than anything else previously placed on the negotiating table. It will serve Arizona’s interests through 2026, consistent with the duration of the multi-state DCP.
This implementation plan is complex. This is nothing new. Water policy in the Southwest always has been and always will be complex. Other plans have held out the romantic lure of simplicity, but that simplicity only works for a few. This current plan, on the other hand, holds out the prospect of long-term benefits for all.
Above all else, this implementation plan meets a lasting, system-protecting principle that I addressed in my November statement: No plan shall harm Lake Mead. Other plans, to one degree or another, take water from the declining reservoir, thus undermining the goal of the entire project, which is to stabilize and protect the integrity of Lake Mead.
We have a viable proposal. We need to complete that proposal to protect the Colorado River and those of us who rely on it.
The time is now. Let’s seize the moment.