Arizona Legislature Passes Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan

After months of negotiations between a large array of stakeholder groups, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed Arizona’s commitments to the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) into law Thursday afternoon. The Arizona DCP is a set of voluntary cuts that Arizona Colorado River water users have agreed to take over the next several years to prevent deep shortages at which all Arizona users could face significant cuts. Tucson does not see any new cuts to its share of Colorado River water under the signed plan.

Tucson Water Director Tim Thomure represented the City of Tucson’s interests in the months-long negotiations that resulted in favorable outcomes for the City. “Our community has invested for decades in water conservation, planning, and diversifying our supplies,” commented Thomure. “These investments put Tucson in the position where we were able to play a significant role in the negotiations.” The signed legislation included key measures that the City of Tucson put forth, which give the City and other communities better access to recycled water they discharge into rivers such as the Santa Cruz River.

The Arizona DCP is a carefully crafted compromise that balances the needs of industry, farms, cities, tribes, and the environment. Groups ranging from the Audubon Society and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, to Arizona cities, tribes and agricultural interests gave their vocal support to its passage, including the Tucson Mayor and Council.

The City of Tucson supports the Arizona DCP because it fully protects Tucson’s share of renewable Colorado River water supply through at least 2026, does not pass on any new costs onto the City or Tucson Water customers, and honors principles important to Tucson. These principles include preserving cities’ priority status for water allocations, keeping Lake Mead as full as possible, and protecting Arizona’s economy.

With a shortage declaration on the Colorado River expected as early as next year, Tucson Water continues to work to ensure that long-term water
needs are met. The City’s Colorado River water rights currently meet about 150 percent of customers’ current demands. Past water supply planning efforts and investments have allowed Tucson Water to store excess water in local aquifers for use in the future. 

Director Thomure stated, “Approval of the Arizona DCP is an interim step toward managing the Colorado River in a sustainable manner for the long term, including the future impacts of climate change. Tucson Water will continue to be at the table throughout this process to protect the interests of Tucson and Arizona. We still have much work to do.”