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Phoenix may store Colorado River water to lessen drought

PHOENIX — The Phoenix City Council will vote next Tuesday on whether to approve a fund that will pay for storing Colorado River water to lessen the effects of drought on Arizona.

The city would refinance some outstanding water department debt to finance the $5 million per year Colorado River Resiliency Fund. The fund will allow Phoenix to share wells with local water utilities and to store unused Colorado River water in underground recharge facilities.

Councilman Bill Gates said the fund will help the city get through a drought.

“What we’re doing now is preparing for the worst-case scenario,” he said. “Sadly, that’s kind of what we’ve been living through in the last couple of years as we’ve been facing the worst drought in 400 years in Arizona and throughout the Southwest.”

Gates said he’ll vote for it, and expects that the council will approve the fund.

“I think it is a great approach, and I think it is the way that we need to be going,” said Gates. “There’s no question that we have a plan in the city of Phoenix now.”

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton believes the resiliency fund will act as a kind of insurance policy against water shortages. A shortage has never been declared on the Colorado River, but Stanton believes that, without one or more years of significantly higher-than-normal snowfall on the river basin, the threat of one will increase.

This announcement comes two weeks after Phoenix made a deal that allows it to divert some of its share of Colorado River water to Tucson, which has a more extensive pumping system. Tucson can direct the water back to Phoenix if supplies run low.