The Goal

Child Waterskiing on Lake MeadLake Mead is the largest storage reservoir on the Colorado River system and is the largest reservoir in the United States.  Lake Mead’s water level is important to Arizona because it determines how much Colorado River water Arizona and CAP water users in central Arizona receive, and whether a shortage is declared on the river.  If shortage is declared, Arizona would see a reduction in its Colorado River water supply, first impacting the supply to underground storage, aquifer replenishment, and agricultural water users as well as increasing costs for all water users.

The risk of shortage was looming in 2015, so CAP and partners in Arizona and across the Colorado River Basin began to work collaboratively to leave water in Lake Mead, boosting the lake level and keeping it out of shortage in 2016, 2017 and 2018. If we continue this deliberate, careful management of the water levels at Lake Mead, we can stay out of shortage through 2019 and beyond. This approach provides much needed time for all of the river users to develop long-term solutions in a thoughtful, inclusive manner.

In the 2007 shortage sharing agreement, all the states that share the river, the federal government agreed to shortage “trigger levels” and resulting reduced delivery amounts to Arizona and Nevada. In 2012 and expanded in 2017, Mexico agreed to participate in voluntary shortage reductions similar to those in Arizona.  Before those agreements expire, the water users, states and federal government, and Mexico are working together to discuss earlier and deeper reductions to Colorado River supplies for Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico.  Those discussions include participation by California, which would make contributions to Lake Mead and potentially would take reductions in its Colorado River deliveries if Lake Mead dipped to specified levels.

Achieving consensus among water managers throughout the Colorado River Basin about how to develop solutions to managing the river will provide CAP and its customers greater certainty about the longer-term reliability of the Colorado River and allow CAP to continue supporting the economic and environmental health of the Colorado River and central and southern Arizona.