Anxious to explore new solutions to Arizona’s long-term water supply challenges, State Senator Gail Griffin joined representatives from the Central Arizona Project on a tour of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Yuma Desalting Plant to learn more about the facility and the viability of desalination as new source of water for the state.
“As chairman of the Senate Government and Environment Committee, I am keenly aware of the importance of water to our state’s economy and enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about an existing desalination facility here in Arizona,” Griffin explained. “While thoughtful planning and policymaking have protected Arizona from the kinds of water shortages faced in other states like California, it is important to explore new sources of water to ensure that our economy and our population continue to grow.”
Senator Griffin’s tour included a comprehensive examination of the facility’s operations, including reverse-osmosis membranes through which Yuma area agricultural drainage water is filtered so that it can be returned to the Colorado River as part of the treaty obligations between the United States and Mexico. The plant is designed to treat about 100,000 acre feet of water per year, saving about 75,000 acre feet of Colorado River water annually.
While those treaty obligations remain in force, the Bureau of Reclamation has refused to operate the facility since 1993, choosing instead to divert water to Mexico directly from the Colorado River, leading to an 100,000 acre-feet per year reduction in the water supply in Lake Mead. Because of Arizona, and specifically, CAP’s junior priority, this loss of water puts Arizona’s Colorado River water supply at increasing risks of shortage. .
“The Yuma Desalting Plant was constructed by the federal government to comply with a treaty we entered into with Mexico,” Senator Griffin explained. “It’s disappointing that the federal government has chosen to bypass those obligations by taking additional water from Lake Mead. Instead of operating the desalting plant, the federal government’s actions put Arizona’s Colorado River water supplies at risk.”
If the federal government were to operate the desalination plant, enough water would be conserved to provide over 250,000 residents with water each year.
“Since many areas of the state require a 100-year assured supply of water in order to develop property, it is critical for Arizona to secure additional supplies of water. The Yuma Desalting Plant has the potential to play a pivotal role in the future of Arizona’s water supply portfolio.”