Denver Water accuses Central Arizona Project of manipulating water orders to take more water from Lake Mead

Denver Water today joined state leaders in the Upper Colorado River Basin with a letter accusing the managers of the Central Arizona Project of manipulating water orders to get more water out of the Upper Basin’s reservoir at Lake Powell. The actions of the CAP’s managers “several compromise the trust and cooperation” needed to solve Colorado River problems, the letter from Denver Water’s Jim Lochhead said. Full text:


Background here.


  1. Seriously?!? I have trouble believing that water managers are just now figuring out that certain entities can take advantage of the Interim Guideline rules for their benefit. As I have commented previously, at nine years old my son figured this out!

    Additionally, I commented about this insanity on this website last February 14th when I stated “The concept of punishing because of water conservation is nothing less than ludicrous!” Then sarcastically added “I hate to say it, but water managers in the lower basin states, might want to consider putting the Drought Contingency Plan progress on the shelf for the time being and, instead, draw as much additional water as needed to keep Mead’s elevation under 1075 feet during this water year.”

    Hate to say it, but the real problem is the system, the interim guidelines release criteria is rather flawed. To go after another user because they are operating within the guidelines is questionable at best. If you don’t like it, work to fix the core problem, not point fingers at an agency that is operating within the regulations.

    I believe it’s worth mentioning that, personally, I think CAP, and Arizona, draw too much water from the lower basin. Don’t even get me started on California! In my opinion, both states should work on other means so as to reduce their take of LB water. However, this does not negate the fact that both states are legally operating under the Interim Guidelines, and that the IG system, under certain circumstances, punishes the LB for less water draw.

  2. So what course of action is the Upper Basin arguing that AZ and CAP should pursue? It’s not at all clear from these letters. Keep in mind that we are talking about voluntary conservation actions—not required by the 2007 Guidelines or any other agreement.

    Seems like AZ only has four possibilities:

    1. Maximize conservation in every year to raise the elevation of Lake Mead as much as possible and insure the greatest chance for a lower release from Lake Powell. This could easily be characterized as “manipulating” the system for the benefit of the Upper Basin. This could require ‘’conserving 600,000 AF a year, which could easily cost AZ more than $100M/year. That is far more than is required by DCP.

    2. Target the amount of conservation to achieve a desired elevation in Lake Mead that avoids shortage but also avoids inadvertently triggering a lower release from Powell. This “Goldilocks” approach is the strategy that AZ has followed for the past 4 years, conserving more than 850,000 AF (at considerable expense) to avoid shortage in the Lower Basin. The Upper Basin finds this strategy offensive, even though it fully complies with (and exceeds) requirements of the 2007 Guidelines and DCP.

    3. Do not engage in any voluntary conservation. Only make reductions when required by the 2007 Guidelines or DCP. This is arguably the “least cost” option for AZ. If AZ had followed this strategy the Lower Basin would have been in shortage several years ago.

    4. Engage in voluntary conservation randomly without regard for the impact of that conservation on Mead or Powell. Much like putting on a blindfold when driving a car, under this approach AZ would pay no attention to the consequences of its action.

    So, again, what is the Upper Basin arguing? That AZ should spend hundreds of millions to maximize the benefit to the Upper Basin? That AZ should have no plan, engaging in voluntary conservation randomly with no goal in mind? Or that AZ should eagerly try to bring on a Lower Basin shortage? Clearly the Upper Basin argument has nothing to do with DCP, because AZ’s current strategy fully complies with DCP.

    Moreover, why is the Upper Basin criticism directed at CAP, when the strategy being followed is that advocated publicly by ADWR?

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