The Colorado River Basin is in a prolonged drought, 23 years and counting, and it’s expected to continue well into the future. The result is that America’s largest reservoirs, Lakes Powell and Mead, have now dropped to critically low elevations. The two reservoirs “conjunctively operate” so that water from Lake Powell fills Lake Mead.
Arizona’s two agencies charged with managing our critical, limited Colorado River resources, Central Arizona Project (CAP) and the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) are taking bold actions to manage and protect those supplies for our state. Six other western states and 10 Indian Tribes, more than 30 million people, are also sharing the dwindling resources of the Colorado. It’s an uphill battle to say the least.
This year, one of the federal strategies to halt the decline of the reservoirs is to release about 500,000 acre-feet less water from Lake Powell. That will help protect the integrity of the infrastructure of Lake Powell but Mead will drop by an additional 8 feet. A declared water shortage is imminent for CAP agricultural users in 2023. Homes and businesses will not yet be formally affected but one thing is certain: water conservation is imperative to sustain our lives in this arid desert.
Cave Creek’s CAP allocation, our only source of surface water supplies, is more valuable than gold. It always has been but this new reality means a whole new way of doing business. After working 20 years as a senior manager at CAP, I knew the value of our resources, which triggered my 2018 campaign for Town Council post-retirement. Cave Creek had unused CAP water supplies and wasn’t banking them underground for the future as do other municipalities all over the Valley. It’s taken four years and one global pandemic later to effectuate the plan, but we got it done. After meeting with CAP senior water banking officials, finalizing intergovernmental agreements to store our water in their underground basins, working through unfounded legal and legislative obstacles, Council has budgeted funds to bank up to 600 acre-feet (195,600,000 gallons) of water for our community’s future.
Council members Morris, McGuire and I will soon be bringing forward much needed policies on water conservation and drought contingency plans to prepare for future planning scenarios by CAP and ADWR. We will absolutely be prepared and ready to respond to our water future with our experience, knowledge and determination for the best interests of our community going forward.
Cave Creek Town Council