BULLHEAD CITY — Arizona Water Banking Authority commissioners met in Phoenix recently for their quarterly meeting where they heard updates on the status of the Colorado River system, deliveries, recovery planning, Central Arizona Project system and to approve the agency’s annual report and budget.
AWBA was established in 1996 to increase the utility of the state’s Colorado River entitlement and to develop long-term storage credits for Arizona.
“The Water Bank’s primary function is to store water for times of shortage,” said Mark Clark, Bullhead City Council member and an AWBA commissioner.
“Excess water is injected into aquifers in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties for later retrieval during times of shortage,” Clark said. “It’s important because Bullhead City, Mohave Valley Irrigation & Drainage District, Lake Havasu City and others have water banked in those aquifers, so in times of shortage we could call upon that if we had restrictions on the amount of water we could use here.”
Commissioners heard the total Colorado River system content is at 50 percent or 30.68 million acre-feet of water. Lake Powell is at 53 percent or 12.9 million acre-feet with a lake elevation of 3,611.99 feet and Lake Mead is at 38 percent or 9.88 million acre-feet with a lake elevation of 1,078.38 feet.
An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover 1 acre with a foot of water, about 326,000 gallons. One acre-foot is roughly enough water to support two households for one year.
Snowpack for 2018 has ended and the projected unregulated inflow for 2018 is 5.25 million acre-feet or 48.4 percent of the 30-year average, said Bret Esslin, Arizona Department of Water Resources’ Colorado River Management division, in his report. The most probable release from Lake Powell is 9 million acre-feet.
Esslin said the probability for shortage increased to 52 percent in 2020 and escalated to 68 percent by 2022.
Whether or not a shortage is declared will be determined when Bureau of Reclamation releases its 24-month study in August that estimates the elevation of Lake Mead and Lake Powell in January, Clark said.
“The August study is the critical one for us,” Clark said. “If the Lake Mead elevation is at or above 1,075 feet, there is no shortage, but if it is below that they’re going to have to declare a shortage.”
Clark said addressing potential shortages through development of a Drought Contingency Plan is vital for the state.
“The probabilities (of shortage) are getting so high now, we’ll have one unless we can get things like the DCP going, where we can put even more water behind the dam,” Clark said. “The DCP briefing (co-hosted by ADWR and Central Arizona Project) is today and BOR Commissioner Brenda Burman is going to be there — she’s really pushing for us to get this finalized. We really need to get this DCP done or the whole state is in trouble.”
Commissioners also heard an update on second quarter long-term storage credit purchases, including 3,600 acre-feet of long-term storage credits purchased from the Ak-Chin and 9,000 acre-feet of firming credits developed with the Gila River Indian Community.
O’Connell also reported just over 15,000 acre-feet was delivered in May, with interstate deliveries scheduled to begin in June unless pushed back by operation issues or agricultural demands.
“As of June 20 the Water Bank has procured 40 percent of our annual deliveries so we’re way ahead of schedule — that’s good news,” Clark said.
Commissioners also were advised there were two additions to forbearance in Arizona since the previous AWBA meeting, bringing Central Arizona Water Conservation District forbearance volumes for conservation efforts to 149,000 acre-feet for 2018. Including Pilot System Conservation activities, total conservation is just over 170,000 acre-feet.
When a Colorado River contractor chooses to forego its right to divert available Colorado River water it is called forbearance.
Commissioners also re-elected current officers of the AWBA.