IN THIS ISSUE: Photo Contest, Brown Bag Recap, Chris Eastoe Publication, APW,
Colorado River
2020 Photo Contest Winners Selected!
The Water Resources Research Center is pleased to announce the 2020 Photo Contest winners. We had a great response and received many amazing entries this year. Judging was no easy task with so many unique and extraordinary photos. We would like to sincerely thank everyone who entered.
We hope that you can join us at our upcoming Virtual Chocolate Fest on February 12, from 3:30-5:00 p.m. MST, where we will highlight the photographs and photographers.

Brown Bag: Recovery of Arizona Water Bank Credits to Mitigate Shortages on the Colorado River

Date: Wednesday, Feb 3, 2021
Time: 12:00-1:15 p.m. MST
Location: Webinar Only
Rabi Gyawali, Water Resource Engineer, Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR)

Simone Kjolsrud, Technical Administrator, Arizona Water Banking Authority (AWBA)

Angie Lohse, Senior Policy Analyst, Central Arizona Project (CAP)
The Arizona Water Banking Authority has accrued over 3.8 MAF of credits to provide firming for Arizona water users during shortages on the Colorado River. Planning for future recovery of AWBA credits involves collaboration between the AWBA, ADWR, CAP, and stakeholders. In coordination with the Recovery Planning Advisory Group (RPAG), this interagency workgroup will release an update to the 2014 Joint Recovery Plan in early 2021.

This webinar will include a discussion of Colorado River shortage impacts, updated modeling, and an overview of the updated Recovery Plan document. The Recovery Plan includes projections for the likelihood, magnitude, and timing of future recovery needs and provides estimates of the recovery capacity required for AWBA firming. The updated Plan also includes an operational timeline to identify critical decision points and key deadlines for recovery implementation.

Upcoming Webinars

Feb 16: Reaching Safe-Yield in the Phoenix AMA
Jessica Fox, Water Policy Advisor, AMWUA
Mar 11: Community Service and Environmental Justice as Essential Best Practices For the Clean Water Utility of the Future
Andrew Kricun, Managing Director, Moonshot Missions; Senior Fellow, US Water Alliance
Mar 31: The Internet of Water: Partnerships for Progress—Modernizing Water Data to Meet 21st Century Needs
Peter Colohan, Executive Director, Internet of Water, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University
17th Annual WRRC Chocolate Fest

Date: Friday, Feb 12, 2021
Time: 3:30-5:00 p.m. MST

Don't miss the WRRC Chocolate Fest—this year held on Zoom. Prepare your favorite homemade chocolate treat to share virtually in this Chocolate Delight Show & Tell. 

Experts Disagree on Colorado River
Water Transfers
On January 14, the WRRC hosted Michael Pearce and Patrick Cunningham, water law attorneys with extensive experience, who presented a two-part webinar on water transfers in Arizona. The speakers offered two different perspectives of Colorado River water transfers from mainstem rights holders to Central Arizona cities. Pearce defined water transfers and the different types of Colorado River water rights in Arizona. Using the example of the GSC Farm, LLC – Queen Creek transfer currently in the works, he explained the benefits of permitting the movement of water from areas with low-growth potential, such as the Cibola Valley in La Paz County, to high-growth areas like Queen Creek in Maricopa County. He pointed out that transfers along the river have been common, thus criteria are in place for determining the volume of water that may be transferred without harm to the river system. Cunningham’s presentation, on the other hand, emphasized the position of mainstem communities on the legal issues currently under debate. For example, they maintain that an Environmental Impact Study should be required before water can be transferred away from the river. Cunningham also warned that hedge funds already have purchased land with high priority mainstem water rights for speculative purposes and have the resources to control any water rights market that may develop for off-river transfers. They continued their discussion of these issues in a Q&A session that addressed in more detail the GSC Farm, LLC – Queen Creek transfer proposal.
Summary of Isotope Research on Sources of Perennial Flow in the San Pedro River

The WRRC is pleased to feature the following article summary prepared by the author, UArizona researcher (retired) Chris Eastoe.

This study used measurements of the ratios of stable (non-radioactive) isotopes in the hydrogen and oxygen of water molecules. Hydrogen exists in nature as two stable isotopes (hydrogen-2 with mass 2 and hydrogen-1 with mass 1). Oxygen exists as three, of masses 18, 17, and 16. The relative amounts of hydrogen-2 and hydrogen-1, and of oxygen-18 and oxygen-16, were compared in different water samples. The data continue to provide information about the sources of water (e.g., whether water fell as rain at high or low altitudes) and about changes that have affected water on the ground or in an aquifer (e.g., evaporation or mixing of different kinds of water).

The County with the Greatest Need for Groundwater Education & Conservation

As an addendum to last week’s article, APW is also initiating a Groundwater Education & Conservation (GEC) program in Pinal County, where the importance of the agricultural perspective cannot be overstated. In the Pinal Active Management Area (AMA), the groundwater management goal is to preserve the agricultural economy for as long as feasible, while considering the need to preserve groundwater for future non-irrigation uses. Growing concerns that Pinal County will not be able to meet that goal for much longer has prompted efforts from all stakeholders to develop new conservation programs and to improve existing management practices. In the spring of 2020, The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) released a draft of the fourth management plan for the Pinal AMA, describing new requirements that will need to be met to sustain the agricultural economy while sustaining growth in other sectors.

Colorado River Water Transfers
Make National News
Earlier this month, the New York Times (NYT) published an article that discussed a hot topic in western water— how Colorado River water transfers are drawing the attention of Wall Street investors. The article describes how some water managers along the Colorado River, a system increasingly threatened by drought, are looking for market-based solutions to meet rising water distribution challenges. The article frames the issue around the agricultural lands along the river that hold abundant water rights and the growing urban demand, far removed from the supply. Investment firms view this distribution issue as an opportunity. According to the article, private investors buy rural agricultural land for the associated water rights, fallow the land, then sell those rights to satisfy the highly valued urban demand. The article details the many and often contentious issues involved, pulling in perspectives from across the interest spectrum.

Photo credit:
Arizona Water Blueprint updates posted - AMA water demand by sector, groundwater levels in sub-basins, tribal Colorado River allocations, and INA water withdrawals.