The Phoenix City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, to allow the city to enter into an agreement with the Central Arizona Water Conservation District in response to continuing declines in water supplies in Lake Mead on the Colorado River.
The agreement, known as the 500+ Plan, involves the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and stakeholders in Arizona, California, and Nevada. The goal is to add 500,000 acre-feet of additional water to Lake Mead each year through 2026. The plan is projected to add approximately 16 feet of water to the reservoir, which continues to reach record low levels.
Those targets will require agreement participants to do without certain amounts of their Colorado River allotments. In exchange for a reduction in water delivery, the parties will receive financial compensation.
“The City of Phoenix recognizes the seriousness of a declining Colorado River, and this action is representative of the collaborative regional efforts that are necessary to address the challenge of water scarcity and drought,” said Mayor Kate Gallego. “Phoenix is a desert community that prioritizes sustainable growth, and the funds saved through this plan will contribute to identifying, innovating and piloting solutions to increase water use efficiency and promote conservation.”
Phoenix will receive compensation in the amount of $4,163,765.97 for a contribution in 2022 of 15,977 acre-feet. The money will come from Central Arizona Water Conservation District and will be used to implement water conservation programs. The city will consider additional contributions in subsequent years on a case-by-case basis.
“This short-term action is important because it represents quick thinking and collaboration among water users in the Southwest,” said Phoenix District 1 Councilwoman Ann O’Brien, who also is a member of the Board of Directors for Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA). “Ultimately, the answer is a long-term adaptation to a hotter, drier future, which must include more efficient use of water.”
The City of Phoenix Water Services Department is more than 110 years old, providing services to the nation’s ﬁfth largest city encompassing nearly 540 square miles. With the dedicated efforts of over 1,300 employees, Phoenix Water treats and distributes tap water to 1.7 million customers daily and manages the city’s sewer system. The sewer system handles wastewater treatment operations for 2.9 million residents in five valley cities. Infrastructure includes eight water and wastewater treatment plants, nearly 300 pumps, well, lift and pressure stations, over 7,000 miles of water main, 55,000 fire hydrants, and 100,000 manholes and cleanouts. Phoenix’s water and sewer rates are among the lowest of comparable-sized cities nationwide. Our tap water supplies are in excellent shape due to decades of planning and multiple water sources. The city reuses nearly all its wastewater on non-edible crops, wetlands, and energy production.