The Central Arizona Water Conservation District (“CAWCD”) Board of Directors has approved an agreement to secure additional Colorado River water from the Town of Quartzsite. Under the agreement, CAWCD will lease the town’s 1,070-AF/year 4th Priority Colorado River entitlement, or whatever portion is approved by the Secretary of the Interior (“Secretary”) as part of the Bureau of Reclamation’s (“Reclamation”) approval of the agreement.
The lease has a 25-year initial term and is renewable for an additional 25 years. CAWCD will make a one-time lease agreement payment of $30,000 and, during the initial term, will pay $1,700/AF approved for lease by the Secretary. During the extension, the price increases to $2,470/AF approved. Funding will come from the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (“CAGRD”) Water Rights and Infrastructure Account reserves. CAGRD is the division of CAWCD that carries out the district’s replenishment authorities.
Payment will be made after all regulatory approvals are received. The regulatory process includes review and recommendation by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (“ADWR”), approval by Reclamation, and any authorizations or approvals needed to convey the water under the CAP System Use Agreement. (For background on the System Use Agreement, see “CAP System Use Agreement Brings Needed Flexibility to Arizona Water Management Efforts,” Journal of Water Spring 2017 and “Central Arizona Project Holds Workshop on Firming, Wheeling and Exchanges,” JOW February 2016).
Quartzsite does not use its Colorado River entitlement as it is located 20 miles east of the river and has not been able to construct a pipeline to develop and use its Colorado River entitlement due to cost. In previous years, the unused water has become part of the CAP excess pool, which CAGRD relies on to meet replenishment obligations. Entering into a lease agreement provides the town with funding to improve its distribution system and improves the reliability of the water supply for CAGRD.
CAWCD also receives a right of first refusal. Before the town transfers any of its Colorado River water to a third-party, it must offer to CAWCD at the same terms as the third-party. This right survives termination of the lease agreement by 5 years.
Written by Marta L. Weismann