BULLHEAD CITY — Bureau of Reclamation modeling indicates Lake Mead could go into a Tier 2 shortage within the next three years.

“The latest came with only 1 percent of the expected runoff into Lake Mead and in two to three years the Lake Mead area is expected to go into a Tier 2 shortage for the state of Arizona,” Lois Wakimoto, Mohave County Water Authority chairwoman and Arizona Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee representative, told members of the Tri-City Council on Wednesday. “The main purpose of the Drought Contingency Plan is to keep us from getting the shortages that are anticipated through geological surveys right now.”

The Tri-City Council is composed of the city councils and the mayors of Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City and meets quarterly in a different city on a rotating basis.

A Tier 2 shortage declaration would trigger a set of criteria in the 2007 interim guidelines reducing Arizona Colorado River deliveries by 320,000 acre-feet should Lake Mead drop to 1,050 feet in elevation.

An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons, enough water for up to three households for a year.

“Looking at the Colorado River, if we take cuts, fourth priority water is what we all have and fourth priority is where the first cuts come,” Wakimoto said.

The Arizona Steering Committee, convened jointly by Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Water Conservation District, began working on the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan in July, tasked with seeking broad commitment and support for the implementation of LBDCP. Last week, the agencies announced landmark agreements — collectively known as Upper and Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plans — on how to manage river allocations in response to drought and reduce the likelihood of reservoirs declining to critical elevations.

Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are in the Upper Basin. Arizona, California and Nevada are in the Lower Basin.

“We’re going to be at target — there’s just not enough water in the state,” said Jamie Kelly, MCWA general counsel and Arizona Steering Committee alternate. “The goal of the LBDCP is to reduce the risk of reaching 1,025 (feet in elevation). DCP reduces that risk by 50 percent, if DCP gets across the finish line.”

The LBDCP would require contributions of water, triggered by Lake Mead elevation levels, to be placed behind Hoover Dam in addition to Tier 1, 2, and 3 shortages in place in the 2007 interim guidelines. 

The LBDCP also contemplates Intentionally Created Surplus, which through a variety of conservation programs such as fallowing, allows water users to forego use and keep water behind the dam.

The next Steering Committee work group meeting will consider Intentionally Created Surplus contracts, Wakimoto said. Mohave County cities have been contacted by Mohave County Water Authority, which is urging municipalities to put ICS plans into place as a placeholder for drought contingency planning.

“Right now you can’t monetize the ICS because of the restriction that it be returned to the water user that created it to their service area,” Kelly said. “Do we see that going forward? Probably, but not as a part of DCP.”

Tri-City Council members also heard updates on the upcoming legislative session. 

Alvin Stump, Arizona Department of Transportation, reported median projects on Highway 95 in Bullhead City are slated to begin in the near future and that a decision on the proposed traffic roundabout for Aztec and Highway 95 in Fort Mohave is expected soon.

In his report, Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady said the city is waiting for the Arizona Corporation Commission to make a decision on EPCOR Water Arizona’s current rate case.

In July, the council voted to place Proposition 410 on the general election ballot, asking voters to decide whether the city should acquire or condemn EPCOR’s water assets in Bullhead City and take over operation of the local water utility, in response to a rate increase and consolidation plan EPCOR has before the Arizona Corporation Commission. In September, council members voted to remove its proposal to purchase the utility’s Bullhead City assets and instead submit an alternative consolidation plan to the ACC.

“We’re waiting to see how painful it will be for the citizens of Bullhead City,” Brady said. “We fully expect to take the fight up again next year.”

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