Jan 19, 2023 - Politics

New CAP general manager optimistic about agreement on Colorado River water cuts

Brenda Burman poses in front of a desert landscape.

Cental Arizona Project general manager Brenda Burman. Photo: Courtesy of the Cental Arizona Project

Brenda Burman, the new general manager for the Central Arizona Project (CAP), is optimistic that Arizona and other Colorado River basin states can agree on how to conserve 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water per year.

  • If they are unable to, the feds will impose a resolution for them.

State of play: Burman takes over CAP at a precarious moment, with Arizona and the rest of the basin struggling through a prolonged drought that began in 2000 and ranks as the region's worst in 1,200 years.

1 looming deadline: Burman tells Axios Phoenix that the Bureau of Reclamation plans to issue a draft of a supplement to a 2007 environmental impact statement (EIS) on Colorado River conditions in March or April and that it needs data from the basin states in February.

Context: Burman says CAP will then have a better idea of what the bureau could impose on the basin states if they can't agree on conservation measures.

  • CAP spokesperson DeEtte Person said the supplemental EIS is a necessary step for modifying the operations guidelines for Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam, if necessary.
  • Those dams created Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which are critical reservoirs for Colorado River water.

Catch up quick: Arizona has already taken multiple rounds of cuts to its allocation of Colorado River water under the auspices of a Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) that it signed onto in 2019.

  • The bureau announced last year that Arizona would have to take a cut of 592,000 acre-feet, or 21%, of its allotment from the Colorado River.

What they're saying: "I am confident in an outcome in which Brenda is going to be sitting next to me at a table in discussions with the federal government, the basin states, the tribes, the NGOs," Arizona Department of Water Resources director Tom Buschatzke said.

  • Burman's experience as the Bureau of Reclamation commissioner means she has preexisting relationships with many of the stakeholders as she comes into the job, he said.
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