Colorado River

With the risk of a water shortage on the Colorado River greater than ever, leaders across the Southwest are calling for innovation and incentives to conserve resources.

To that end, the Phoenix City Council will vote next week to establish the Colorado River Resiliency Fund, Mayor Greg Stanton said Thursday.

If approved, the city will refinance water-department debt to invest about $5 million annually.

That money would initially go mostly toward an agreement announced this month allowing Phoenix to store its extra Colorado River water in Tucson. The fund does not have a time limit and could be used for storage and conservation.

Stanton, speaking before a forum hosted by the nonpartisan group Arizona Forward, called the fund an “insurance plan” and proof of the city’s commitment to protecting its water supply.

“We have to do whatever we can to get ahead of the threat,” he said.

Arizona could face some of the first supply cuts if a Colorado River water shortage is declared.

The pressing risks to the river was the prime topic among local and regional speakers at Thursday’s forum: A Challenged Lifeline to the Southwest.

The Colorado River system is roughly half full after 15 years of drought, said Terry Fulp, with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The consequences of water shortages have already been felt in California, where water rationing first began in the 1990s, said Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“If we have another tough year next year, it’s going to be pretty ugly in California,” he …read more