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Tucson to conserve 'significant volumes' of Colorado River water in exchange for federal compensation

The southern Arizona city said it's open to allocating "significant volumes" of its river water for a three-year period for compensation from the federal government.

TUCSON, Ariz. — A letter from Arizona to Nevada may reveal what Tucson's water future will look like in the coming years.

The city sent the letter to a Bureau of Reclamation office signaling its willingness to leave a large portion of its Colorado River water allocation ion, in exchange for federal compensation for the water given up.

Although the letter does not list a specific amount of water the city is willing to give up, it does mention that the city wants to be compensated through the bureau's Funding Opportunity for Voluntary Participation in the Lower Colorado Conservation and Efficiency Program, specifically "Component 1.a" of the program.

"Tucson hereby offers significant volumes of its annual Central Arizona Project allocation for system conservation under Component 1.a for a three-year period," the letter said.

The component lays out how much entities can be compensated for water conservation efforts, including:

  • One-year agreement: $330 per acre-foot
  • Two-year agreement: $365 per acre-foot
  • Three-year agreement: $400 per acre-foot 

The three-year period mentioned in the Tucson letter signals the city would be paid $400 per acre-foot of its river water allocation it leaves in the Colorado River.

Tucson also had three other conditions for its conservation agreement, including:

  1. That the city's participation in the program does not place its river water allocation at risk
  2. That the Bureau doesn't use the city's conserved water allocation as a baseline for putting additional cuts in place
  3. The federal government will bring other water users into the program, namely in California.

"We welcome the opportunity to discuss our offers at your convenience," the letter said. "Any final agreement will require Mayor and City Council approval."

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