/ Modified mar 1, 2019 3:40 p.m.

New Deadline for Drought Contingency Plan Approaching

Why the plan Arizona passed in January fell short of expectations.

A little over a month ago, all the talk at Arizona's Capitol focused on whether lawmakers could pass a drought contingency plan ahead of a deadline at the end of January. It's one of seven states that need a plan to help maintain levels in Colorado River reservoirs like Lake Mead. It appeared Arizona came up with a solution in time, although it wasn't what the federal government expected. Arizona may still comply if lawmakers can finish signing agreements by early March.

Arizona 360 got insight on issues hampering the process from Luke Runyon, a reporter for KUNC radio in Northern Colorado who covers the Colorado River Basin. Runyon explained more about why the plan passed by Arizona did not satisfy the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

"If you ask representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation with the federal government they would say, 'No, the state had too many loose ends,'" Runyon said. "There were side agreements between the state, between individual water districts, between tribes that had not been finished and that the deal was a little bit too fragile for the federal government."

Runyon also explained that one of the biggest hiccups in the negotiation process comes from stakeholders in California concerned about dwindling water levels in its Salton Sea. The lake has been drying up, creating public health issues as a result, according to Runyon.

"That has been something that the State of California and a large water district there has been working toward getting funding for, and they're seeing they have a lot of power within these negotiations over the drought contingency plan," Runyon said.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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