Jul 08, 2015

Bureau of Reclamation Provides $1.5 Million for River Basin Studies

The bureau selected the Salinas and Carmel River Basins in California and Lower Santa Cruz River Basin in Arizona as subjects for basin studies

Bureau of Reclamation basin studies

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López announced that the bureau will use $1.5 million to partner with water managers in Arizona, California and New Mexico to conduct comprehensive water studies. This funding will help complete two basin studies and develop plans of study for two more.

"Reclamation and its partners are confronting widening imbalances between demand and supply in basins throughout the West," López said. "Working collaboratively with stakeholders within each respective basin, we can use the latest science and data to develop options that will achieve a sustainable water supply."

Reclamation selected the Salinas and Carmel River Basins in California and Lower Santa Cruz River Basin in Arizona as subjects for basin studies. A basin study is a comprehensive study that defines options for meeting future water demands in river basins in the western U.S. where imbalances in water supply and demand exist or are projected to exist in the future.

Reclamation will make $950,000 available for the Salinas and Carmel River Basins that will be matched with $1.16 million from the study partners. These California basins encompass 4,500 sq miles with a population of 370,000 people and include the protected Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The two basins also include 250,000 acres of agricultural land and have a combined economic output estimated to be $11 billion annually. Through the basin study an integrated hydrologic model will be developed that identifies the risks and potential impacts of climate change on future water resources. It will then highlight options and adaptation strategies for helping to achieve a sustainable water supply.

In the Lower Santa Cruz River Basin, Reclamation will provide $392,750, which will be matched by the study partner, the Southern Arizona Water Users Assn. The Lower Santa Cruz River Basin encompasses 3,869 sq miles in southeast Arizona and has a population of approximately 980,000 people, most of whom reside in the Tucson metropolitan area. The region heavily relies on water from the Central Arizona Project and, due to the ongoing drought, is seeing declines in the groundwater supply. An annual deficit of 250,000 acre-ft is projected by 2025. The basin study will identify the water resources needed to mitigate climate change impacts and improve water reliability for municipal, agricultural and environmental demands.

Two basins were selected to develop a plan of study. A plan of study helps a cost-share partner—such as a local water district—define the outcomes and set the scope and focus for a potential future basin study. Reclamation will develop the plans of study with each cost-share partner.

The two plans of study are:

  • Middle Rio Grande - federal funding: $84,000; non-federal funding $89,000
  • Mojave River Basin - federal funding: $75,000; non-federal funding: $75,000

Reclamation's share of the study costs may be used only to support work done by the bureau or its contractors. The non-federal partners in a basin study must contribute at least 50% of the total study cost in non-federal funding or in-kind services. Non-federal partners typically include state and city agencies, municipal water districts and flood control and irrigation districts. Since 2009, total federal funding for the Basin Study Program is $17.5 million.

The Basin Study Program is part of the WaterSMART Program. WaterSMART is the U.S. Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. 

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