Showing posts with label CAP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CAP. Show all posts

Monday, September 16, 2013

Might be time to try a little forebearance

I've been too busy to post anything on the recent announcement by Reclamation that a shortage declaration on the lower Colorado River is likely by 2016.  But when I spotted this (pdf) on the agenda for the most recent board meeting of the Central Arizona Project, it seemed like a good time to chime in.

The fallowing and forebearance agreement between CAP and the Yuma Mesa Irrigation and Drainage District (YMIDD) is a first step to developing a relationship between water users in Arizona along the River and in the Central part of the state to try to forestall shortages to CAP customers. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

More info on the CAP Pipeline to Green Valley Kerfuffle

As I briefly mentioned in my previous post, the City of Tucson is looking at setting up some policy guidance (pdf) to help them evaluate proposals to hook into a pipeline, jointly owned by the city and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (the CAP), at the end of the CAP canal/pipeline south of Tucson.  Nothing is set in stone yet - the Mayor and Council instructed staff to make some modifications to the criteria they considered, then bring it back for a vote sometime this summer.  But there has been plenty of grandstanding about what is best for the city, what is best for our shared aquifer, and who is a good steward of our resources.  I jumped into the fray myself last week by submitting a guest opinion that was published in the local paper.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Update on ADWR NIA Reallocation Process

Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) has posted the comments received on their proposed process for reallocation of the 96,000 acre-feet of Non-Indian Ag (NIA) water in the CAP system.  Several of the comments echo my points (with additional elaboration) on some of the failings of the proposed process.  Unfortunately, no one else suggested that a market mechanism for allocation would be appropriate.  Of course all the other comments were from actual stakeholders who might want to be granted rights to some of this water.  I acknowledge that a market is probably not in their self-interest.  I think it's not inconceivable, though, that some of the industrial users (mining companies) might be willing to get behind the idea, as they would be likely to come out ahead of many of the municipal users - at least in the short-term.  But in strict dollar terms they are probably better off with an administrative allocation process. 

The one idea that no one seemed to get behind was the proposal by CAP to impose a reliability charge with this water to establish a fund that would attempt to firm up this somewhat unreliable supply.  That was certain to be a tough sell.  Seems like most users would rather deal with supply reliability issues on their own.  I'll try to update again when ADWR posts the responses to the comments received, but it will likely take a while.

Friday, November 2, 2012

ADWR Water Allocation Process

One month ago, the Arizona Dept. of Water Resources (ADWR) held a public meeting to announce that they were beginning the process to allocate (or reallocate) approximately 96,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water delivered via the Central Arizona Project (CAP).  This is water that was made available by the big Arizona Water Settlement that was crafted almost 10 years ago, but under the language of the act was not available for reallocation until 2014.

As you might expect from the state agency responsible for management of the state's water they have proposed a tightly controlled administrative process for deciding who should get the water and how much they should be entitled to.  Oh, and there are also some costs associated with this water.  But as is typically the case, the cost for this water only covers the "costs" of administering the process, then when the recipient takes the water they will pay the "costs" for delivery.  There are no "opportunity costs" or "scarcity costs" included.  Now admittedly these costs are greater than what has been paid by those who currently possess allocations of Arizona's Colorado River water, but that is all water under the bridge, so to speak.  And what the entities who manage to "win" an allocation of this water will get is something slightly less than a continuously assured supply of renewable water.

Because this is water that was relinquished by agricultural contractors it holds a priority within the CAP system that is lower than the standard municipal and industrial allocation.  What this means is that when there is a shortage on the Colorado River that impacts Arizona's supplies this water may be unavailable for delivery.  ADWR has analyzed the expected reliability of this water and believes that up to 2/3 of this water should be continuously available, depending on the assumptions you use (a summary of their analysis can be found if you click the "presentation" link on the process page).

So far that's all well and good.  Where I have a problem is the whole process they have proposed for determining who is "worthy" of receiving an allocation of this water.  This is what administrative agencies always try to do and they never seem to get it right, especially in situations where you are dealing with a scarce resource.  People try to game the system, assumptions have to be made about where future demand will reside, and there just tends to be a whole range of normative "calculations" that need to be made to justify the actions of the agency.

I am planning to draft up some comments recommending that they at least try to allocate some of this water via a market-clearing auction (CAP staff proposed something similar as part of the ADD Water process that you can find here - click the link for "ADD Water Program Proposal").  I have no hope that it can all be auctioned off (there are too many bureaucratic hurdles in the way) but it just seems to me that given the year-to-year variability that might be present in at least some of the water available and the well-known superiority of market mechanisms to allocate scarce resources, an auction has to be the best way to ensure that this water is allocated in an equitable and efficient manner.  It's a long shot, but someone has to take the first shot.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So What's the Hold-up?

From today's Arizona Daily Star, an article about the Vail (AZ) Water Company facing the prospect of refunding to it's customers the money it has been collecting for over 10 years to pay for a means of taking their allocation of CAP water.  Vail is about as far away from the CAP canal as you can get while still being technically within the Tucson area.  This makes it a challenge to get that water to their customers.  But in recent years the City of Tucson (and their water company) has been pursuing wheeling agreements that allow other water utilities to take their CAP water by having Tucson Water deliver it through the city's pipes to a point where the other utility can access it without having to build large delivery infrastructure of their own.  They have done this recently with Oro Valley and are working on doing something similar with Metro Water.

So why doesn't Vail do something similar, or at least why haven't they done so to comply with the agreement they made with the Corporation Commission?  A couple of ideas come to mind.  While the idea of doing wheeling agreements with Tucson Water has been discussed for several years, it's only within the last 2 or 3 years that the idea has begun to be looked at really seriously.  Earlier, utilities like Metro and Oro Valley were considering plans to take the CAP water themselves, possibly by building a treatment plant and pipes to deliver it themselves.  The cost of doing so was simply prohibitive.  I'm sure Vail at least thought about doing something similar at one time.  But they are a pretty small utility - only about 3,900 connections - so the cost of building that kind of infrastructure (at least 20 miles from the nearest point where they could tap into the CAP) would be pretty high per customer. 

The article suggests that wheeling had been considered previously, but Tucson Water wasn't that interested.  There is likely some truth to that.  Tucson Water had a reputation for many years of not wanting to play nice with others - deserved or not.  I also think that for a small company like Vail Water the cost of pumping groundwater is much less than they would have to pay for CAP water, so the prospect of coming into compliance and having to hit their customers with a big rate increase wasn't real attractive.  It's also likely that Tucson Water will have to upgrade some of their infrastructure in the vicinity of Vail to accommodate the extra water and Vail Water would have to pick up most, if not all, of the tab for that.  So even a wheeling agreement is not cheap - Vail may have just been counting the beans and deciding to continue pumping from their wells.

So solutions are not easy to come by in this situation.  But I do know for sure that a solution is extremely important in this case.  Because in the near vicinity of the rapidly growing community of Vail is one of the gems of riparian habitat remaining in Pima County - Cienega Creek.  This is a phenomenal spot where shallow groundwater surfaces to create a small flowing stream flanked by towering cottonwood, willow, alder, and ash trees and an amazing diversity of wildlife.  And the more development in the area that is supported by drilling wells to tap groundwater, the more likely it is that Cienega Creek will someday stop flowing.  So I really hope they can finalize a wheeling agreement, because Vail has a renewable resource it could use, Tucson is willing to work with them to get it to their neighborhood, and riparian areas in Pima County are few and getting fewer.  And once they're lost, they are really hard to get back.