EPCOR is known for expertise in long-term planning, water reclamation, water conservation and a multi-faceted approach to water supply. Today, as a lasting drought continues to affect Arizona, our customers can be confident that we’re prepared with enough water to meet demand – now and far into the future.
The impact of drought on the Colorado River is real, but we are prepared – and optimistic. We’ve been planning ahead for drought for a long time, and water from the river is only one source of EPCOR’s overall water supply. As we have always done, we’re continuing to look closely at surface water sources, the quality and quantity of groundwater, innovative reclamation ideas and other factors.
A strong foundation of planning
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For decades, water management leaders have been planning a strong water future for Arizona. Those plans include the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which brings Colorado River water stored in Lake Mead to seven states, along with other measures like the Arizona Groundwater Management Act.
The U.S. Department of Interior is constantly monitoring the water levels in Lake Mead and the Colorado River, and has announced that it expects the drought to trigger planned restrictions on CAP water to Lower Basin states, including Arizona, in 2022.
Water managers have been planning for this possibility for many years. Most importantly for EPCOR customers, the restrictions we anticipate in 2022 do not affect municipal and industrial users like EPCOR.
The Central Arizona Project and EPCOR’s water supply
The Colorado River Basin is divided into two sections: the Upper Basin and the Lower Basin. For purposes of discussing the drought, we'll focus on the Lower Basin, which includes parts of Arizona, California and Nevada.
In 1922, the states entered into a compact to divide the waters of the Colorado River. The Lower Basin, which includes Arizona, was allotted 7.5 million acre-feet of water each year in the following proportions:
- California: 4.4 million acre-feet
- Arizona: 2.8 million acre-feet
- Nevada: 300,000 acre-feet
The Colorado River Compact lays out a plan for what to do if water levels drop to pre-determined thresholds in Lake Mead. Agriculture and aquifer recharge will be the first areas to reduce usage. Several triggers have to occur before municipal supplies would be impacted – this includes water that EPCOR delivers to our customers.
If at some point in the future municipal CAP supplies become reduced, banked water will be used to fill the shortage. The Arizona Water Banking Authority and many others, including EPCOR, have been storing water underground in our aquifers for a time of shortage. To date, more than nine million acre-feet have been stored.
Drought planning at EPCOR
At EPCOR, we’re fortunate to have experienced, knowledgeable water planning leadership on our staff, and we're a proven leader in managing our water supply. Our agreements for water rights extend far into the next century. And we're constantly innovating to find new ways to manage the system and respond to the drought. Here are some elements of our multi-pronged drought management plan:
- Making sure our water supply portfolio draws from many sources
- Maximizing our use of reclaimed water
- Creatively partnering with other water users to add long-term flexibility to our supply
- Upgrading our wells for recovery of banked groundwater
Adding it all up
Yes, the drought is serious. But along with our state and federal water leaders, we've been thinking about and preparing for this drought for decades. Plans are in place to guide us and our customers successfully through this period and into the future.