An AZ Obscure water bank to allocate excess water supplies / Public Press Service

Two decades of extreme drought have strained Arizona’s water supply, but a once obscure state agency may soon be at the forefront of keeping faucets flowing.

The Arizona Water Bank, established in 1999, tracks any excess water from the state’s annual Colorado River allotment. But water in the river has reached critical levels this year, triggering mandatory restrictions.

Virginia O’Connell, director of the Arizona Water Banking Authority, said the agency, for the first time, could decide how to get “reserve” water to where it is needed, while ensuring that supplies last.

“So this is a first for us,” she said. “We will distribute credits for this purpose, or even that the rights have been shortened. We are all working together to ensure that we are ready and ready to go in the event of a shortage.”

Arizona normally receives 2.8 million acre-feet of water per year from the Colorado River, but the restrictions will reduce the state’s allotment by 18%. O’Connell said the Water Bank currently manages about 3.75 million acre-feet of water credits.

She said most of the water in the bank is stored by a utility group and other entities that have credits in the bank’s “vault”.

“Basically it’s an accounting system to track how much water you’ve stored, because it actually gives you ownership of that water,” she said, “and then you can get those credits back. future when you need it.”

In the 1990s, O’Connell said, state officials became concerned that unused portions of Arizona’s water allotment might be claimed by other states. So, they created the water bank to hold any surplus for use during droughts and other shortages.

“Their task was to store all of the unused portion of the Colorado River water in Arizona, and that water would be made available in the future in the event of a shortage,” she said. “And that’s kind of where we are now.”

Under the current agreement, the US Bureau of Reclamation will annually assess the available water supply. O’Connell said the Water Bank will use this data to determine how much water can be released and who will get it.

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