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City of Phoenix forgoes more water from Lake Mead in wake of declining levels

Phoenix Business Journal

The city of Phoenix said Friday that it will forfeit delivery of an additional 14,000 acre-feet, or 4.5 billion gallons, of Colorado River water to shore up Lake Mead.

This will bring the total amount of water the city has left in Lake Mead so far this year to 30,000 acre-feet, or 9.7 billion gallons, which would have been stored underground for later use. Forgoing Lake Mead water will not result in any water cutbacks for Phoenix, the city said.

In exchange for leaving the additional water in the river’s reservoir, which has reached 31% capacity this year and is projected to drop another 10 feet this summer, the city said it will receive about $7.8 million.

The money will go toward Phoenix’s Water Revenue Fund to purchase water from other sources and fund conservation programs, the city said.

The city’s efforts are part of the 500+ Plan, which has a goal of leaving 500,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead every year through 2026. One acre-foot is equivalent to nearly 326,000 gallons of water, or the amount used by an average of 3.5 Arizona households in a year.

“In this time of extreme drought, it is not easy to convince governments to leave water behind,” said Mayor Kate Gallego in a statement. “It is also true that cities and Indian communities cannot solve this issue on our own. We need to see proportional action across sectors – particularly agriculture, which uses 70% of available Colorado River water.”

So far, communities including the Gila River Indian Community, Tucson and more have agreed to be part of the plan, the city said. Phoenix made its first contribution to the 500+ Plan in January, when it committed to leaving about 16,000 acre-feet in Lake Mead.

News of Lake Mead comes after the city declared a “stage one” water alert and enacted the first step of its drought management plan, which occurs when an insufficient supply of water appears likely.

As a result, Phoenix will implement an “intensive” public education and outreach campaign to raise awareness about the Colorado River shortage and encourage residents and businesses to engage in responsible water use.

It’s the first of four stages that imposes water use reduction in the city’s drought management plan. The first stages of its plan will have minimal impact on customers, the city said.


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