Water Officials: Yuma Rights Secure, But Drought Planning Crucial For Colorado River Users
During the Yuma Agriculture Water Conference held Jan. 13, officials from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation discussed water rights and supply for Yuma agriculture.
One of the key messages of the presentation: Yuma’s agricultural water rights are not threatened.
“Because of the priority of the water here, they are very secure in the water resources coming to Yuma, even in a shortage,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
The latest U.S. Bureau of Reclamation water level projections for Lake Mead show potential for shortages in Lower Basin states as early as 2017. These estimates do not take into account this winter’s precipitation, said Terry Fulp, director of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region.
A shortage would trigger restrictions based on priority. Regardless of that, Buschatzke said water users must invest in the long-term health of the river basin.
“We are one state. We do have a statewide allocation of Colorado River water," Buschatzke said. "We are all interconnected, and perhaps there’s a role for Yuma to participate in drought contingency efforts.”
These drought contingency efforts include pilot fallowing programs – like the one in the Yuma Mesa Irrigation and Drainage District – where farmers are paid to leave acres unplanted and conserve irrigation water.
A 2014 agreement signed by lower priority users and the Bureau established other pilot drought response programs designed to generate additional water in Lake Mead.
Copies of the conference presentations will be posted on AgWaterYuma.com.