$3.4 billion project would help improve sustainability of Colorado River water supplies
Building on increased collaboration on the Colorado River, water agencies in Southern California and Arizona have forged a new partnership to advance development of one of the largest water recycling plants in the country – a project that would help restore balance to the over-stressed river.
Through an agreement approved by Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors, the Central Arizona Project and Arizona Department of Water Resources will contribute up to $6 million to environmental planning of the Regional Recycled Water Program, a project to purify treated wastewater to produce a new, drought-proof water supply for Southern California. Southern Nevada Water Authority signed a similar agreement with Metropolitan earlier this year.
If fully developed, the $3.4 billion project would produce up to 150 million gallons daily, enough to serve more than 500,000 homes.
“This project could help the entire Southwest. We know that eliminating the supply-demand imbalance that threatens the Colorado River will take both reducing demand, through conservation, and adding new supplies, like recycled water,” Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said. “That’s why our partners in the Lower Basin are interested in helping us develop the project.”
The initial investment from Arizona could lead to a long-term agreement with the agencies to help fund the project’s construction and operation – helping offset the project’s significant cost for Metropolitan – in exchange for Colorado River water, Hagekhalil said. But more research and planning must be conducted before such a long-term partnership could be developed, he added.
Environmental planning work on the project began last year and will take approximately three years, at a cost of about $30 million. The work, including a Program Environmental Impact Report and engineering and technical studies, will help determine the value and feasibility of developing the full-scale project.
Under the new agreement, the Central Arizona Project will contribute $5 million and the Arizona Department of Water Resources will contribute $1 million to this planning work.
“We are eager to further our partnership with the Metropolitan Water District to collaboratively explore and develop opportunities to improve the long-term reliability and resiliency of our shared resource – the Colorado River,” said Central Arizona Project General Manager Ted Cooke.
The latest agreement reinforces the long-standing commitment between California and Arizona to work together to develop solutions on the Colorado River, including supply augmentation, conservation and storage. This partnership, together with Metropolitan’s collaboration with Nevada, will be critical as the Colorado River Basin states begin to create new operating guidelines for the river. The current guidelines are set to expire in 2025.
“Increasing the reuse of recycled water is critical to augmenting water supplies and creating a more resilient Colorado River,” said Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.
Expanding the value of the Regional Recycled Water Program to the entire Southwest could also help earn federal financial support for the project.