Water-sharing agreement with Mexico could boost water levels at Lake Mead

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A new agreement between Arizona and Mexico plans to raise water levels at Lake Mead and push talks of drought-contingency plans among states that draw from the Colorado River.

Lake Meade is the United State’s largest water reservoir and provides water from the Colorado River to Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico. The agreement – known as Minute 323 – outlines how much water Mexico will get in the event of shortages and surplus. Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, believes this agreement is a step in the right direction to help prevent a crisis in the event of drought.


HORIZON,
DETAILS ON A NEW AGREEMENT WITH
MEXICO REGARDING COLORADO RIVER
WATER.
ALSO TONIGHT: HOW ARIZONA
COMMUNITES MEASURE UP IN A
NATIONAL SURVEY ON EXERCISE AND,
A PROGRAM THAT HELPS DISAFFECTED
YOUTH RE-BUILD THEIR LIVES.
THOSE STORIES, NEXT, ON ARIZONA
HORIZON.
>> ARIZONA IS MADE POSSIBLE BY
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS
OF ARIZONA PBS.
MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION.
THANK YOU.
>> Ted Simons: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO
ARIZONA "HORIZON".
I'M TED SIMONS.
THE STATE LEGISLATURE'S ECONOMIC
ANALYSTS TODAY PREDICTED A
BUDGET SHORT-FALL THAT COULD TOP
A-HUNDRED MILLION-DOLLARS IN THE
CURRENT AND COMING YEAR. THIS AS
CORPORATE TAX CUTS CONTINUE TO
OUT-PACE INCREASES SALES AND
PERSONAL INCOME TAX COLLECTIONS.
REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE DON
SHOOTER SAYS IT MIGHT BE TIME TO
"REVISIT" RECENT CORPORATE TAX
CUTS, BUT THE GOVERNOR'S' OFFICE
IS RULING OUT ANY
TAX-INCREASES...
AND GOVERNOR DUCEY IS HEADED TO
THE UNITED KINGDOM NEXT WEEK FOR
A SERIES OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
MEETINGS. THE GOVERNOR WILL ALSO
MEET WITH TOURISM OFFICIALS AND
TAKE IN THE ARIZONA CARDINALS
FOOTBALL GAME SCHEDULED TO BE
PLAYED OUTSIDE LONDON.
ARIZONA DID 1.4 BILLION DOLLARS
IN BUSINESS WITH THE UK LAST
YEAR, WITH EXPORTS INCLUDING
ELECTRONICS, COPPER, MILITARY
HARDWARE AND AIRCRAFT
COMPONENTS.
A NEW WATER-SHARING AGREEMENT
WITH MEXICO LOOKS TO HELP BOOST
WATER LEVELS IN LAKE MEAD AND
PROVIDE AN INCENTIVE FOR ARIZONA
AND OTHER STATES THAT SHARE THE
COLORADO RIVER TO FINISH A
DROUGHT CONTINGENCY PLAN. HERE
WITH DETAILS OF THE AGREEMENT IS
SARAH PORTER, DIRECTOR OF THE
KYL CENTER FOR WATER POLICY AT
ASU'S MORRISON INSTITUTE.
WELCOME TO ARIZONA "HORIZON."
THIS DISAGREEMENT IS CALLED
MINUTE 323.
WHAT IS WITH THE NAME?
WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT?
>>Sarah Porter: A MINUTE IS AN EXTENSION OR
ADDITION TO A TREATY.
SO THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A
BINATIONAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE
UNITED STATES AND MEXICO.
THERE IS A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF
IMPORTANT DIPLOMATIC BUCK BURR
OCRIES THAT HAVE TO TAKE PLACE
FOR THIS AGREEMENT AMONG WATER
MANAGERS TO BE APPROVE AS A
U.S.-MEXICO WATER TREATY.
THESE ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS ARE
CALLED MINUTES.
>> Ted Simons: THIS DEALS WITH MEXICO
AND WATER LEVELS AT LAKE MEAD.
TALK ABOUT IT.
>> Sarah Porter: LAKE MEAD HOLDS THE
COLORADO'S RIVER SUPPLY FOR
CALIFORNIA, NEVADA, NEW MEXICO
AND ARIZONA.
IT HAS BEEN IN THE NEWS FOR QUITE SOME TIME NOW,
THE LEVELS THAT MAKE THE MEAD HAVE BEEN
DROPPING.
THEY HAVE BEEN RECOVERING IN THE
LAST THREE YEARS ALSO.
BUT THERE HAS BEEN AN ONGOING
EFFORT DEFINITELY SINCE 2007 BUT
SINCE WELL BEFORE THAT BY WATER
MANAGERS IN THOSE STATES TO NOT
ALLOW THE LEVELS TO GET DOWN TO
CATASTROPHIC LEVELS.
CATASTROPHIC COULD MEAN EITHER
WATER STOPS FLOWING OUT OF THE
GATES BECAUSE IT WAS AT A DEAD
POOL OR HIGHER LEVEL AND WE
COULD NOT GENERATE ELECTRICITY
WHICH 8 MILLION PEOPLE DEPEND
ON.
THIS AGREEMENT IS PART OF AN
ONGOING SET OF AGREEMENTS
ESSENTIALLY TO MANAGE
FORBEARANCE SO WATER USERS LEAVE
WATER IN LAKE MEAD AND TO TAKE
VOLUNTARY CUTS IN THE AMOUNT OF
WATER THAT IS DELIVERED IN ORDER
TO KEEP THE LEVELS OF LAKE MEAD
UP.
>> Ted Simons: MEXICO, BY WAY OF THIS
AGREEMENT, SAYS THEY WILL REDUCE
WATER DURING A WATER SHORTAGE,
CORRECT?
>> Sarah Porter: NOT QUITE.
>> Ted Simons: NOT QUITE.
OKAY.
>> Sarah Porter: BECAUSE A WATER SHORTAGE, I
THINK, IMPLIES THERE ISN'T
ENOUGH WATER.
WE ARE TRYING TO PREVENT GETTING
TO A WATER SHORTAGE AND WE DO
THAT WITH A VOLUNTARY FOREBEAR.
THESE FOUR USERS AGREE TO LEAVE
A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF WATER IN
LAKE MEAD.
ARIZONA TAKES THE LOINS'S SHARE
OF THE SHORTAGE.
IF THIS PLAN IS ADOPTED WE WILL
TAKE THE LIONS SHARE OF THE
SHORTAGE.
BUT MEXICO IS ALSO AGREE TO
SHARE IN THE SHORTAGE BY LEAVING
WATER IN MEAD.
>> Ted Simons: NOW THIS IS CONTINGENT
ON ARIZONA, NEVADA, CALIFORNIA,
COMING UP WITH A DROUGHT
CONTINGENCY PLAN.
>> Sarah Porter: THE STATES HAVE NEGOTIATED
WHAT I WOULD CALL AN AGREEMENT
IN PRINCIPLE.
THE BEST WATER MIND IN THE THREE
STATES GOT TOGETHER AND HAMMERED
OUT A PROPOSAL FOR HOW MUCH EACH
STATE WOULD FOREBEAR AT A
SPECIFIC LEVEL.
LAKE MEAD WHEN IT IS FULL IS 1,232
FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL.
WE HAVE BEEN HOVERING AROUND
1,075 and 1,083-84.
SO YOU CAN SEE WE ARE DOWN LOW.
IF IT GOT MUCH LOWER WE WOULD BE
UNCOMFORTABLE.
THIS IS AN AGREEMENT AT CERTAIN
LEVELS WE WILL FOREBEAR SPECIFIC
QUANTITIES.
>> Ted Simons: THERE IS A CERTAIN
LEVEL, A TRIGGER POINT IN TERMS
OF THE LEVEL, WHERE A WATER
SHORTAGE IS BASICALLY DECLARED.
>> Sarah Porter: RIGHT.
AND THAT IS VERY LOW.
1025 WHERE THE BUREAU OF
RECLAMATION.
THE WATER MASTER FOR LAKE MEAD,
THE FEDERAL AGENCY THAT MANAGES
IT COULD DECLARE A SHORTAGE AND
THE EXISTENTIAL THREAT FOR
ARIZONA AND TUCSON IS THE
PROJECT IS ESSENTIALLY THE
LOWEST PRIORITY USER ON THE
COLORADO RIVER.
ARIZONA DECIDED INSTEAD OF
WAITING FOR FATE AND MAYBE WE
WILL HAVE TO SUFFER THROUGH A
TERRIBLE CUT WE DON'T KNOW WHAT
IT WILL BE.
WE DECIDED WE SHOULD TAKE OUR
FATE IN OUR HANDS AND WORK WITH
THE OTHER STATES FOR VOLUNTARY
CUTS THAT WOULD ALLOW US TO KEEP
THE LEVELS OF MEAD UP WELL ABOVE
THAT POTENTIALLY VERY, VERY
DRASTIC SHORTAGE LEVEL.
>> Ted Simons: WE HAVE DONE SHOW ON
THIS WHERE EVERY AUGUST THEY DO
A FIVE-YEAR ASISIS -- ASSESSMENT
>> Sarah Porter: YOU MAY REMEMBER IN 2016, WE
HAD A MIRACLE SPRING AND
PRECIPITATION THAT BROUGHT UP
THE LEVELS.
THE RISK OF A SHORTAGE ON LAKE
MEAD IN 2018 IS ZERO.
THERE IS A HIRE RISK IN 2019.
THESE PROJECTIONS ALWAYS HAVE A
MUCH HIGHER RISK AS WE GO OUT
BECAUSE OF ALL THE ASSUMPTIONS
THEY MAKE.
>> Ted Simons: WE DO A LOT OF STORIES
ON WATER AND CONVERSATION AND
WATER SUPPLIES AND THERE IS A
COMMON THEME ARIZONA IS A DE
DESERT, THERE ARE TOO MANY
PEOPLE HERE, WE ARE USING TOO
MUCH WATER.
WE ARE JUST WAITING FOR THE END
TO OCCUR.
WHAT DO YOU TELL THOSE PEOPLE?
>> Sarah Porter: I WOULD SAY LOOK INTO WHERE
OUR WATER COMES FROM AND HOW WE
MANAGE IT AND I THINK THEY WOULD
FIND IT IS A VERY DIFFERENT
REALITY.
MOST OF THE BIG OLD CITIES IN
ARIZONA HAVE DONE EXTREMELY WELL
AT MANAGING WATER AND WHAT I
WOULD SAY IS ARIZONA IS BUILT
FOR A DROUGHT.
WE HAVE BEEN PLANNING SINCE WELL
BEFORE STATEHOOD TO MAKE SURE WE
HAVE WATER SUPPLIES IN THE EVENT
OF SHORTAGE.
WATER HAS ALWAYS BEEN VARIABLE.
WE HAVE RELIED ON THIS SINCE THE
ORIGINAL ROOSEVELT DAM AND HAVE
THIS DISCIPLINE OF MAKING SURE
WE HAVE SUPPLIES WELL IN ADVANCE
OF THE NEED FOR THEM, OF
IMPLEMENTING EFFICIENCIES
WHEREVER WE CAN AND WE HAVE BEEN
INNOVATIVE.
THE PHOENIX AND TUCSON CITIES
HAVE BEEN EXTREMELY INNOVATIVE
IN FINDING WAYS OF RECHARGING
AQUAFERS.
UNDERGROUND WE LEAD THE COUNTRY
THAT WAY.
PHOENIX HAS FOUR SOURCES OF
WATER SUPPLY.
VERY RESILIENT WATER SYSTEM.
IF ONE SYSTEM IS DOWN WE HAVE
THE OPPORTUNITY TO LOOK TO ONE
OF THE DIFFERENT SOURCES OF
WATER.
WE MANAGE GROUND WATER.
WE MANAGE IN PHOENIX AND TUCSON
AND PRESCOTT SO WE ARE NOT
MINING GROUND WATER.
THAT IS DIFFERENT.
>> Ted Simons YEAH, OF COURSE FOLKS IN THE
SMALLER TOWNS HAVE A LITTLE BIT
OF A DIFFERENT REALITY.
THAT IS A DIFFERENT TOPIC FOR
ANOTHER DAY.
>> Sarah Porter: IT REALLY DOES DEPEND ON
WHERE YOU ARE GOING.
I HEARD SOMEONE TALK ABOUT WE
NEED TO FIX ARIZONA WATER'S
PROBLEMS AND I THOUGHT ARIZONA
IS ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE WATER
CH
CHALLENGES BECAUSE WE ARE A
WATER SCARCE STATE.
WE WILL HAVE GREAT VARIABILITY
IN THE AMOUNT OF WATER WE
RECEIVE IN THE DECADE AND YEAR
TO YEAR.
BUT WE HAVE ALREADY PROVEN WE
ARE QUITE GOOD AT THAT.
>> Ted Simons: IT WILL BE INTERESTING
TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS.
THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.
UP NEXT ON ARIZONA HORIZON, HOW
THE STATE COMPARES TO THE REST
OF THE COUNTRY WHEN IT COMES TO
EXERCISING.

Sarah Porter: Director, Arizona State University's Kyl Center for Water Policy at the Morrison Institute

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