On February 2, 2017, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (“CAWCD”) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (“Reclamation”) signed the Central Arizona Project (“CAP”) System Use Agreement. Arizona has long been working to manage the risks associated with shortage on the Colorado River, and the new agreement provides needed flexibility by allowing for the use of the CAP System to deliver non-project water. Specifically, it provides a framework for firming, wheeling, and exchanges—which, for the purpose of the agreement, are defined as follows:
- Firming: “satisfying all or a portion of a Long-Term Contract entitlement that has been reduced due to a Water Shortage”
- Wheeling: use the CAP System to transport water other than CAP’s normal Colorado River supply
- Exchanges: swapping project water for non-project water.
The agreement also establishes scheduling priorities for CAP System use:
|First||Deliveries pursuant to CAP Long-Term Contracts for use with the contractor’s reservation or service area or for lease, exchange, or underground storage in the same segment as the reservation or service area|
|Second||Deliveries pursuant to Agricultural Pool Settlement Contracts (through 2030)|
|Third||Deliveries under CAWCD Wheeling Contracts for which there is additional operational capability from a completed system improvement project|
|Fourth||Deliveries pursuant to CAP Long-Term contracts for lease, exchange, or underground storage in a service area downstream (toward the CAP Terminus) from the contractor’s reservation or service area|
|Fifth||Deliveries pursuant to Excess Water Contracts (other than Agricultural Pool Settlement Contracts)|
|Sixth||Deliveries of non-project water under Reclamation Wheeling Contracts or Federal Arrangements for Indian or federal agency purposes|
|Seventh||Deliveries of non-project water under Reclamation Wheeling Contracts or Federal Arrangements for other purposes|
|Eighth||Deliveries under CAWCD Wheeling Contracts for which Reclamation projects there will be additional operational capability from a proposed system improvement project|
Firming water is assigned the priority of the water it is replacing.
The System Use Agreement was vetted through a stakeholder project over the course of one year. CAWCD and Reclamation held a stakeholder discussion February 1, 2016 to present the principles they were addressing. The draft agreement was released on November 3, 2016, and the second stakeholder discussion was convened on November 22, 2016. Stakeholders were asked to submit written comments by November 29, 2016, and written comments from the tribal consultation were requested by December 5, 2016. After working through the comments, the final execution copy of the agreement was released on February 1, 2017. (For more information on the February 1, 2016 stakeholder discussion, see “Central Arizona Project Holds Workshop on Firming, Wheeling and Exchanges,” JOW February 2016).
The System Use Agreement is necessary because it resolves long-standing issues regarding operation of the system and unifies provisions of the multiple agreements governing the Central Arizona Project. It has been lauded for providing flexibility and fostering innovation.
“This Agreement provides us with the flexibility for cost-effective recovery of stored water, including more than four million acre-feet of CAP water stored in the aquifers of Central and Southern Arizona,” said CAWCD General Manager Ted Cooke. “I would like to thank the negotiators from the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation, along with the significant contributions from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Arizona Water Banking Authority.”
With the System Use Agreement in place collaborative water management efforts, such as the contemplated expansion of the water storage agreement between the Cities of Phoenix and Tucson, can move forward. (For background on the transaction between Phoenix and Tucson, see “Phoenix Orders Full Entitlement of CAP Water for Storage and Recovery Agreements,” JOW Winter 2017).
Written by Marta L. Weismann