News Feature | January 11, 2019

Arizona's Drought Contingency Plan May Be Its Best Hope, But Will It Pass?

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

Few regions around the country have as much at stake during prolonged droughts than Arizona. After months of negotiating, the state now has an approved framework for a drought contingency plan (DCP), though it faces some obstacles.

According to Cronkite News, the Central Arizona Project, the state’s largest resource for renewable water supplies, arrived at an outline for a plan that would reduce water deliveries during droughts.

“Many stakeholders in Arizona support the framework for water cutbacks, including Gov. Doug Ducey,” Cronkite News reported. “A few big issues remain, such as infrastructure money for Pinal County farmers.”

According to the report, the farmers have taken issue with the fact that there has been no clear funding allocated for them to build groundwater infrastructure as part of the plan. And their support may be critical, as state lawmakers still need to grant authority for the state water department to sign the plan.

Furthermore, because Arizona’s water primarily comes from the Colorado River, the drought contingency plan needs to be signed in seven states that rely on the Colorado Basin. And there isn’t much time to waste, as Arizona is already on the brink of an official drought.

“Lake Mead, the main reservoir for the lower basin of the Colorado River, is at an alarmingly low level,” per Cronkite News. “Climate change and over-allocation have dropped it to 38 percent capacity. An official ‘shortage’ declaration is more than likely by 2020, which already means cutbacks for the basin states under a previous agreement. The DCP is an attempt to take additional cuts ahead of time to stave off even deeper drops in Lake Mead.”

This desperation may be what turns the proposed drought contingency plan into a reality.

“[The drought contingency plan] doesn’t solve our water problems, “ AZ Central reported in an opinion piece. “It just prolongs them on Lake Mead and buys time for Arizona to complete even more painful work than this. But the alternative — doing nothing — is so much worse for Arizona that even if it is imperfect, we simply can’t let DCP fail.”

The legislature will be in session from Jan. 14 through April 27, 2019.

To read more about drought issues visit Water Online’s Source Water Scarcity Solutions Center.