BRIEF: Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan

News Release

January 31, 2019

DCP By The Numbers

Arizona and six other western states draw water from the Colorado River, which has its source as Lake Mead. In Arizona, roughly 40 percent of the water we use comes from the Colorado River, supporting economic sectors as agriculture, industry and household uses.

The Problem:
Arizona’s water supply is threatened by a 19-year drought. Facing dwindling water levels in Lake Mead, the federal government has ordered Arizona and its neighboring states to conserve more water in the lake - or face harmful water cuts.

If Lake Mead reaches critically low levels, Arizona could lose access to up to 17 percent of its water allocation, the equivalent of losing a year’s worth of water for one million Arizona households.

Taking Action: The Drought Contingency Plan
Since July 28, 2018, 40 stakeholders representing diverse interests from across Arizona have worked to develop what’s known as the Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP.  These stakeholders included members of both parties and chambers of the Arizona Legislature as well as individuals representing interests such as agriculture, cities, industry, tribal communities, non-profits, and more.

On December 6, 2018, the stakeholders approved a plan that balances water reductions in the state to ensure no one user is taking the brunt and spells out ways that Arizona will contribute to conserving more water in Lake Mead.

How Is The Legislature Involved?
Some components of DCP must be approved by Arizona’s legislature while others involve private agreements between various water users.

Currently, the Legislature is considering parallel bills in the House and Senate that enable DCP to be ratified. One bill authorizes Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke to sign-on to the interstate Drought Contingency Plan on behalf of Arizona. The other bill allows for certain water stakeholders within Arizona to make agreements on water usage rights and provides $30 million in Lake Mead conservation, $2 million for ground water conservation, and $9 million for Pinal County agriculture infrastructure projects.

Why is this important now?
The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that manages the storage reservoirs on the Colorado River, set a January 31 deadline for the seven Colorado River basin states to agree to a plan. If the deadline is not met, the Bureau has said it will post a federal notice asking the seven basin states to provide recommendations for a course of action, which would restrict Arizona’s ability to determine its own water future.


Drought Contingency Plan

  • July 30, 2015 - Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan Lopez convenes the first DCP negotiation involving Arizona, California, and Nevada
  • November 11, 2015 - DCP term sheet sufficiently completed by Lower Basin states to begin negotiations with Upper Basin States
  • November 23, 2015 - First meeting with Upper and Lower Basin States regarding the Lower Basin DCP
  • May 18, 2016 - ADWR-CAWCD Drought Preparedness Workshop, first major discussion of terms and conditions of DCP
  • May 25, 2016 - Representatives from the United States and parties from the basin states first propose that Mexico add the DCP into Minute 323
  • August 22, 2016 - First intra-Arizona mitigation discussions on DCP are held
  • November 9, 2016 - Mexico agrees to adopt DCP in Minute 323
  • November 30, 2016 - Negotiation of intra-Arizona DCP Plus
  • June 15, 2017 - First meeting of Governor Ducey’s Water Solutions Conversation; Colorado River track purposed to enable the approval of the DCP
  • July 19, 2017 - Gila River Indian Community System Conservation Agreement Is Approved 
  • September 27, 2017 - U.S. and Mexico Sign Onto to Minute 323 Agreement
  • November 22, 2017 - Commissioner Brenda Burman confirmed to lead the Bureau of Reclamation 
  • December 2017 - Bureau of Reclamation calls for DCP to be completed
  • May 3, 2018 - CAP/ADWR announce joint-collaboration to approve DCP

Steering Committee Meetings

  • July 26, 2018 - Meeting #1 of DCP Steering Committee
  • August 9, 2018 - Meeting #2 of DCP Steering Committee
  • August 23, 2018 - Meeting #3 of DCP Steering Committee
  • September 13, 2018 - Meeting #4 of DCP Steering Committee
  • September 27, 2018 - Meeting #5 of DCP Steering Committee
  • October 5, 2018 - Bureau of Reclamation releases DCP draft regulations
  • October 10, 2018 - Meeting #6 of DCP Steering Committee
  • November 29, 2018 - Meeting #7 of DCP Steering Committee
  • December 6, 2018 - Meeting #8 of DCP Steering Committee
  • DCP Steering Committee CAP/CAWCD approves of DCP policy
  • December 13, 2018 - Bureau of Reclamation sets January 31 Deadline
  • January 8, 2019 - Meeting #9 of DCP Steering Committee
  • January 24, 2019 - CAP/CAWCD approves DCP Legislative Package
  • January 31, 2019 - Arizona Legislature passes and Governor Ducey signs legislation enabling DCP