News - AWR Winter 2015

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Phoenix to Store Water in Tucson

In October, the Cities of Phoenix and Tucson announced an agreement for Phoenix to divert some of its share of Colorado River water to Tucson to be stored underground there for future use. Because Phoenix uses only about 70 percent of the amount of water it subcontracts from the Central Arizona Project, it proposes to send excess to Tucson for storage as a hedge against likely future shortages on the Colorado River. Shortage is possible by 2016 or 2017, according to CAP. A Phase One pilot will store 850 acre-feet of water at the Southern Avra Valley Storage and Recovery Project. Based on the results of the pilot, Phoenix may store up to 40,000 acre-feet in Phase Two. When shortages occur, Tucson can pump up and use the stored water while directing an equivalent amount to Phoenix from the CAP. The advantage for Tucson is reduced pumping costs because the water storage will raise groundwater levels near Tucson’s pumps. An added benefit for Phoenix is the ability to avoid expansion of infrastructure to pump and store the water locally. The pilot agreement may be a model for other cities that do not currently use their full CAP allocations.

EPA Pours $45 Million into Arizona for Water, Environment

The Environmental Protection Agency has directed nearly $45 million to Arizona for water, wastewater, and environmental programs. The Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona, WIFA, was awarded $25 million for water and wastewater projects on non-tribal lands. WIFA will use the funds to provide low-cost loans for safe drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements. EPA has awarded more than $585 million in federal funding for Arizona’s clean water and drinking water revolving funds since their inception in 1988. In addition the agency awarded $19.5 million for programs on tribal lands. Funds are intended to support environmental programs, water infrastructure development, community education, and capacity building for Arizona tribes. Most of that money will be used for water projects on reservations around the state. Environmental programs are allocated the remaining $2.7 million for projects such as cleaning up open dumps and running community outreach and education projects. 

New Forest Fund Supports Two Watershed Projects

The Salt River Project and the National Forest Foundation recently partnered in the creation of the Northern Arizona Forest Fund, NAFF, to support high-priority restoration projects on National Forests in the Salt and Verde River watersheds. The National Forest Foundation is the nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service, formed in 1993 and chartered by Congress. The newly created NAFF provides businesses and residents an opportunity to invest in activities that protect and restore watersheds vital to their water supplies. The first two priority projects identified by the NAFF are the Upper Beaver Creek Forest Health Project and the Oak Creek Erosion Control Project. As a first step in the Upper Beaver Creek project, vegetation management techniques will be employed on a small portion of the 48,000-acre project area to create conditions that reduce the risk of high-intensity fires in the forest. Erosion control on Oak Creek is a project that local stakeholders and the Coconino National Forest developed for the protection and improvement of Oak Creek’s water quality and the quality of downstream rivers and reservoirs. Long term, they hope to improve drainage and rehabilitate ecosystems along nearly 20 miles of forest roads within the Oak Creek watershed.

First Public-Private Recharge Project to Be Built

On November 20, 2014, the Central Arizona Project reported that the state’s first ever public-private reclaimed water recharge facility will be built through a partnership between the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD) and Liberty Utilities. Liberty Utilities provides water service to communities around Arizona. The CAGRD is responsible for replenishing excess groundwater withdrawn by its members in the Phoenix, Pinal County and Tucson areas. The new recharge facility will be located in the City of Goodyear where Liberty Utilities has 12 wells pumping from the same aquifer that this project will recharge. At the recharge facility, the water will be delivered to large, shallow basins where it will percolate into the ground and help restore water levels that have declined due to past pumping. At the same time, it will help the CAGRD meet its replenishment obligations by an arrangement that gives the District ownership of stored water. The water supply will come from Liberty Utilities’ Palm Valley Water Reclamation Plant, which produces approximately 3.5 million gallons per day of A+ reclaimed water—the highest quality of reclaimed water on the scale defined by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. The recharge facility will receive the water that is surplus after delivery of the reclaimed water now sold for park and golf course irrigation. 

Megdal Honored by Morrison Institute, Joins Board of New Kyl Center

On November 14, WRRC Director Sharon B. Megdal was named Morrison Institute Distinguished Fellow at the Institute’s annual State of Our State Conference. The title of Distinguished Fellow was created in 2012 to not only recognize Arizona’s best and brightest in public policy, but also tap into their knowledge and expertise for their insights on certain policy-relevant issues. Dr. Megdal has also joined the Advisory Board Executive Committee for the new Kyl Center for Water Policy at the Morrison Institute. The center, officially launched at this year’s SOS Conference, seeks to ensure sound water stewardship in Arizona through research, collaboration, analysis, and open dialogue.

WRRC Receives Outstanding Evaluation

The University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center, WRRC, was recognized for “performing at an outstanding level” during a recent evaluation by the U.S. Geological Survey, USGS. The Water Resources Research Act Program, administered by the USGS, requires that each state’s Water Resources Research Institute/Center be evaluated periodically to determine its eligibility for continued support. Based on the review performed for the 2008 to 2010 period, the recognition put the WRRC in an elite rank among Water Resources Research Institutes. Among other findings, the review committee complimented the WRRC for the quality of its programs, its impact on public policy and water management, and for successfully addressing Arizona’s water resources challenges.