The Arizona Water Banking Authority (AWBA; Water Bank) was created in 1996 to store Arizona’s unused Colorado River water entitlement in central and southern Arizona, to develop long-term storage credits (LTSCs) to firm existing water supplies for Colorado River and CAP M&I water users, to help meet the water management objectives of the State, to assist with meeting the State’s obligations in the settlement of Indian water rights claims and to assist Nevada and California through interstate banking. In 1999, the Water Bank was given additional authorization to store other renewable supplies.
The AWBA’s water storage is accomplished through the Recharge Program that is administered by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR). Through this program, the AWBA stores renewable water supplies in either Underground Storage Facilities (USF) or Groundwater Savings Facilities (GSF). In the future, the credits accrued will be distributed by the AWBA during a shortage to replace a portion of the shorted supplies for municipal and industrial Colorado River water users and certain Arizona tribal communities firmed by the Water Bank. The use of AWBA credits is dependent on the source of funds used to develop those credits.
The Water Bank has made considerable progress toward meeting its objectives, developing 4.28 million acre-feet (MAF) of credits for future use, of which 3.67 MAF is available for Arizona uses, and 0.61 MAF of which were developed for interstate purposes on behalf of Nevada. In recent years the amount of excess CAP water available to the Bank has been decreasing. To supplement storage, in 2014, the Bank was given the authority to purchase existing LTSCs. This tool has given the Bank additional flexibility to make progress on its firming goals. The AWBA continues to explore alternative methods to achieve its objectives.
While the AWBA was initially created to store Arizona’s unused Colorado River entitlement, the AWBA is transitioning to its next phase. With reductions in excess CAP water supplies and the increasing likelihood of future Colorado River shortages, the Water Bank has been focusing on the process for making its LTSCs available to mitigate potential shortages. The AWBA continues to work collaboratively with water organizations, federal and state agencies and stakeholders to address future recovery and other water-related issues.