Central Arizona Project (CAP) officials are scrambling to figure out how to cut even more of its share of Colorado River water.
The water accounts for 36% of the state's water supply and is largely used to reduce groundwater usage in Phoenix and Tucson areas.
U.S. Department of Interior announced last week that Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming will have cut 2-to-4-million-acre feet from their usage has triggered intensive negotiations between the states and the Republic of Mexico about how to get that done. The plan aims to keep Lakes Mead and Powell from dropping to critical levels in 2023.
It is an extraordinary amount of water which could fill 2 to 4 million football fields with a foot of water.
During a briefing on Thursday with CAP water users, that would normally discuss how much water cities, towns and tribes could expect to receive next year, General Manager Ted Cooke said that number had yet to be determined.
The newest cuts are over and above the 592,000-acre feet that Arizona agreed to leave in Lake Mead during Tier 2a reductions resulting from the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan.
Cooke told ABC15 states are working together but also want to keep as much as they can for their use.
"Everybody thinks what they use their water for is the most important thing. Of course they do. So do we. But that all needs to be sorted out," he said.
Arizona has junior rights to the Colorado River and has already agreed to deep cuts under previously negotiated deals. Contrast that with California which has senior rights has not yet taken cuts to its water. Cooke said with these new reductions the old rules cannot apply.
"2-million-acre feet cannot be satisfied just by reducing all the junior priority user," Cooke said. "2-million-acre feet cannot be satisfied just by wiping out half the [agriculture water] or something like that. Its needs to be a combination of these things to get to that number. There is no way to impact just one sector because it's such a huge number."
He said the goal is no longer just about delivering water but keeping the Colorado System functioning.
"Yes, we're concerned about protecting our own supply and our own needs and things like that but if the system crashes or is about to crash and the United States closes the gates on Hoover Dam that is a surprise that nobody wants to deal with," Cooke said.
States have until mid-August to come up with a plan which Cooke anticipates will happen.
Will what they come up with be sufficient for the interior?
"Even if the states do a wonderful job but they only get part of the way there, what the United States does to get up to their number could completely undo all of that because they will get to where they need to be," he said.