Photo courtesy of Brian F. O’Neill


One objective of the Arizona Water Banking Authority (AWBA) is to mitigate the effects of a Colorado River shortage on Central Arizona Project (CAP) Municipal and Industrial (M&I) subcontracts by firming those water supplies during a shortage. Firming is the use of one supply to increase the reliability of another. In this case, the AWBA has stored water in underground aquifers to supplement Colorado River water during a reduction in supplies. In the event of a declared shortage, AWBA long-term storage credits (LTSCs) will be recovered to benefit water users firmed by the AWBA. CAP is responsible for recovering water previously stored by the AWBA to make water available for CAP M&I water users firmed by AWBA. Recovery of AWBA credits could occur through increased groundwater pumping and delivery through the CAP aqueduct, independent recovery performed by an M&I subcontractor or by credit exchange with a CAP contractor or subcontractor. The 2014 Joint Recovery Plan and the 2021 Joint Recovery Update include a more detailed summary of recovery methods, timing and implementation.

There are currently 52 M&I subcontractors collectively holding entitlements of 620,678 acre-feet of CAP water and the AWBA has stored 2,300,000 acre-feet of LTSCs to firm these supplies.  In March 2019, the AWBA adopted a policy regarding the distribution of LTSCs for firming CAP M&I subcontractors. Through 2026, the AWBA will distribute LTSCs pursuant to A.R.S. § 45-2457(B)(7) to meet all reductions to scheduled CAP M&I Priority water due to a shortage condition or required Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan (LBDCP) contributions, regardless of use. Consequently, this policy provides the certainty desired by CAP M&I subcontractors that water will be available to meet demand and to ensure sufficient resources for mitigating water reductions that result from the LBDCP. The operating experience gained during this time will inform future AWBA policies on LTSC distribution.

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