/ Modified jan 24, 2019 4:28 p.m.

Wading Into Colorado River Negotiations

Time is almost up for Arizona to approve a drought contingency plan.

Lake Mead Levels Low water levels at Lake Mead outside Las Vegas are prompting water leaders throughout the Western U.S. to undertake negotiations over the Colorado River's future.
Luke Runyon/KUNC

The Buzz

Wading Into Colorado River Negotiations

Arizona faces a Jan. 31 deadline to approve a drought contingency plan for the water it uses from the Colorado River. (Download MP3)

The Arizona Legislature has until Jan. 31 to approve a drought contingency plan for the Colorado River.

A working group has spent months trying to come up with a plan that satisfies cities, farmers and Native Americans with a stake in the future of the Colorado River.

The Colorado River is at record lows, and a shortage is expected to be declared in the coming year.

Tucson Water is a major player in the construction of the drought contingency plan. The water utility agreed to give water to farmers in Pinal County for the next few years so they are not hit so hard by the proposed cutbacks in the plan.

"We will also be made whole on that water in Tucson," said Tim Thomure, director Tucson Water.

Water banked in other places will be given to Tucson in exchange.

Thomure said Tucson Water does not use all of the Colorado River water it gets each year so it stores the extra for future use.

The drought contingency plan is not a long-term measure. It merely buys the seven Colorado River basin states time to craft a longer-term plan.

"This drought is now in its 19th year. No one knows whether this is the 19th year of a 19-year drought or the 19th year of a 50 or 70-year drought," said Robert Glennon, a water expert at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona.

If Arizona does not approve the plan by the Jan. 31 deadline, the commissioner of the federal Bureau of Reclamation will devise a plan.

The Buzz
The Buzz airs Fridays at 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. on NPR 89.1. You can subscribe to our podcast on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, or the NPR App. See more from The Buzz.
By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
AZPM is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona