Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD)
AGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION
Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD)
The Central Arizona Water Conservation District is a special taxing district, created by Laws 1971, Chapter 50. Until 1985, statutory authority was found at Arizona Revised Statutes Title 45, Chapter 13, Articles 1 and 2 (A.R.S. §§ 45-2601 through 45-2617, and A.R.S. §§ 45-2631 through 45-2634).
In 1985, Title 48 was created (entitled “Special Taxing Districts”). CAWCD statutes were transferred from Title 45 to Title 48 by Laws 1985, Chapter 190, Section 24. Current statutory authority may be found at A.R.S. §§48-3701 to 48-3784.
The Central Arizona Project is a 336-mile long aqueduct system, stretching from Lake Havasu City to Tucson, that delivers approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water to certain areas of the state. Construction of the CAP canal began in 1973 and was completed 20 years later. CAP water is used by cities, water utilities, agricultural districts and Native American communities throughout central and southern Arizona.
The CAWCD is a multi-county water district (Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties) formed to contract with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to deliver CAP water; operate, maintain and manage the Central Arizona Project (CAP); and to repay the federal government for costs of constructing the CAP. The CAWCD is also responsible for planning and implementing projects to supply its district with water. It operates the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD) and several recharge facilities.
The District is headed by a general manager who reports to the fifteen-member CAWCD Board of Directors. Board members are popularly elected from CAP’s three county service area and serve staggered six-year terms.
The CAWCD is authorized to issue bonds and levy taxes. It levies a property tax in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties to help finance its operations and repay its obligation to the United States for the cost of construction of CAP. In addition, a property tax is collected to be used by the Arizona Water Banking Authority to store water underground and purchase long-term storage credits.
As of 2022, the CAWCD tax rate is 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. CAWCD also collects 4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation which can be used by the Arizona Water Banking Authority to store water underground and purchase long-term storage credits, as well as for any CAP operations, maintenance or repayment costs.
The Central Arizona Project was established on September 30, 1968 by the Colorado River Basin Project Act (USPL 1967, Chapter 57, page 380). The CAWCD, a special taxing district, was established for the purposes of contracting with the U.S. Secretary of Interior for delivery of Arizona’s CAP water, repaying the federal government for the state’s share of CAP construction costs, and operation and maintenance of the CAP aqueduct. See Laws 1971, Chapter 50.
In 1993, the Legislature expanded CAWCD’s authority to include groundwater replenishment within the Phoenix, Pinal and Tucson Active Management Areas (ARS Title 48, Chapter 22, Article 4). The replenishment authority of the CAWCD is referred to as the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD). Membership in the CAGRD provides a method for landowners and water providers to demonstrate consistency with AMA management goals under the Assured Water Supply (AWS) Rules. Membership is voluntary and carries certain financial responsibilities. CAGRD is responsible for replenishing the amount of groundwater that exceeds pumping limitations that have been imposed by assured water supply rules. Replenishment may occur through operation of underground storage facilities or groundwater savings facilities. CAGRD is required to establish a replenishment reserve for both current and future member service areas and member lands. See Laws 1993, Chapter 200.
The Arizona Water Banking Authority was established by Laws 1996, Chapter 308. The legislation established the AWBA, outlined its powers and duties and created the Arizona Water Banking Fund. The language requires an annual report, outlines planning and implementation requirements for storage facilities, and requires the Authority to develop an accounting system and rules of operation for accrual and purchase of long-term storage credits.
The Declaration of Policy and Purpose (A.R.S. §45-2401) explains that water banking is complimentary and compatible with existing water management efforts and the Arizona Water Banking Authority will compliment and assist the activities of the CAWCD in its mission to provide a dependable and cost-effective water supply. The declaration also explains that it is in the best interest of the state to use the CAP to store otherwise unused Arizona entitlement to Colorado River water to meet future water needs within the state, increase utilization of Arizona’s Colorado River entitlement, and to store water to protect Arizona municipal and industrial water users against future water shortages on the Colorado River and disruptions of operation of the CAP.
The Authority is also authorized to negotiate and enter into interstate water banking agreements with California and Nevada. In 2006, the Authority was named as the agent to meet the state’s obligation to fulfill requirements outlined in Indian firming measures to deliver water in times of shortage (See Laws 2006, Chapter 114, Section 9, PDF page 428).
In response to ongoing drought in the western states, the General Manager of CAWCD and the Director of ADWR co-chaired numerous briefings, planning sessions and stakeholder meetings to develop an agreement among Arizona interests. Similar negotiations were held in the six other Colorado River Basin states. The Upper Basin includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The Lower Basin states are Arizona, California, and Nevada. The seven basin states were eventually able to develop agreements concerning Colorado River Drought Contingency Management. H.R. 2030, the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act, was approved by Congress in 2019, and directed the Secretary of Interior to execute and carry out the agreements. See the Colorado River Drought Contingency Planning: June 28, 2018 to May 20, 2019 for more details.
The District is authorized to levy a tax on the property within its boundaries in order to repay the federal government for costs of constructing the CAP aqueduct and to pay operating costs. A property tax is levied in the CAWCD three-county service area and is capped at 4 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The assessment was scheduled to drop to 3 cents per $100 assessed valuation in 2024 and would have been repealed in 2030. However legislation enacted in 2022 delayed the reduction from 4 cents to 3 cents per $100 assessed valuation until 2030 and delayed the repeal of the tax until 2035. See Laws 2022, Chapter 154.
- A.R.S. §§ 48-3701 to 48-3784
- Assured & Adequate Water Supply rules A.A.C. R12-15-701 et seq.
- Session laws
- Laws 1971, Chapter 50
- Laws 1985, Chapter 190, Section 24
- Laws 1993, Chapter 200
- Laws 1996, Chapter 308
- Laws 2006, Chapter 114, Section 9
- Laws 2022, Chapter 154
Central Arizona Project website
Arizona Department of Water Resources website
Arizona Water Banking Authority website