Monday, June 14, 2021

Oro Valley Plans Now For Potential Water Use Restrictions Later

The drought is 22 years and counting
The Southwest and the Western US is in a 22 year long drought. It is severe. It is the second longest drought in recorded history. There is no end in sight. Even one or two rainy years won’t solve the drought problem. 

The drought has impacted CAP water
The drought problem won’t be solved unless there are substantial continuing high snow pack, slow melt years in the Rockies. It’s the snow pack melt that provides the bulk of water to the Colorado River system (CAP). It is a system that has seen the slow, continuing decrease in water levels in its two primary lakes: Lake Powell and Lake Meade. 

Oro Valley is dependent on CAP water
CAP water was first introduced to Oro Valley in 2012. Given it’s extensive growth, Oro Valley has not become dependent upon it. By 2020, it was 33% of Oro Valley water. CAP water is used to replenish Oro Valley’s groundwater. Oro Valley’s ground water would not be sustainable without CAP Water.

Tier 1 CAP water system-wide restriction will start in January
As LOVE has reported, the US Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency responsible for administering CAP, will implement Stage 1 CAP water delivery restrictions when water levels in Lake Meade 1075 feet above sea level. State CAP officials expect that the BLM will make this decision in August for January implementation. This will restrict agricultural water users in terms of the quantity delivered. 

The Tier 1 restriction will not effect Oro Valley’s CAP allocation
It may affect how that allocation is used since the Tier 1 restriction bans CAP water use for replenishment. If this is the case, then Oro Vally Water may have to used this water directly.

Town Council to consider changes to water conservation code “in light of drought…and in expectation of future CAP water delivery curtailments”
Wednesday, The Oro Valley Town Council will take a first step in recognizing the potential impact of the 21 year drought on Oro Valley’s water supply. Later stage CAP restrictions, if they occur, will reduce Oro Valley’s CAP water delivery. The council will discuss, in study session, possible changes to Oro Valley’s water conservation code (article 15-18) 
“In light of the 22-year drought experienced by Arizona, and the expectation of future Central Arizona Project (CAP) water delivery curtailments that could someday affect Oro Valley's CAP deliveries, the Water Utility Commission and staff recommend that now is a good time to update the water code with respect to prohibiting water wasting, the imposition of water restrictions during a Town declared potable water shortage and impose penalties for failure to comply with water conservation requirements during a Town declared potable water shortage.”
Proposed water conservation code change would make water wasting illegal... subject to fines
“Water wasting” (see panel above) would be illegal under the proposed code. The code defines four levels of enforcement regarding water wasting. Essentially, the property owner has six weeks to fix the problem before any fines are levied.The water department, not the police, are responsible for this enforcement.

Wednesday: Proposed code changes specify restrictions in declared water emergency
The bulk of the proposed ordinance regards when the water utility can declare a water emergency, the level of emergencies that it can declare, and the actions that it it will take. This is important because it tells us what to expect if the drought continues. This will be the subject of our posting Wednesday.