Update 12:25 June 10
Part II Water: Lifeblood of the Desert Southwest
As a follow up to my initial letter on the desert southwest, I need to clarify that I used the term moratorium in its vernacular meaning, not the legal definition. It is better said that we need to conscientiously review development proposals with an eye towards water conservation, while at the same time respecting private property rights. With the state’s assured water supply program, there is protection for our ground water resources thus sustaining our economic health. I want Scottsdale to thrive now and decades into the future. The availability of water is essential in achieving this goal.
I apologize for any confusion my use of the term moratorium may have caused.
Councilwoman Betty Janik
While the water shortage in Valley cities is not yet critical, it is certainly in serious condition.
The Colorado River, which supplies water to over 50% of Arizona’s population and about 65% of Scottsdale’s water, is running low.
The 20 year+ drought has reduced water in Lake Powell to levels that endanger the ability of Glen Canyon Dam to provide electricity and water to Page and the nearby Navajo Nation community. To beef up the water level in Powell, as directed by U.S. Department of the Interior, the upper basin states will provide 500,000 acre-feet of water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming.
It is not enough to add more water to Powell by borrowing from Peter to pay Paul; we also need to reduce the amount of water released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead. The lower basin states agreed to leave their water allotment in Powell for the current year. This is only a temporary solution. Of note is that we will be getting “rent” for the water we are leaving behind. However, experts believe the extreme drought will persist due to warmer and dryer weather. They are working on longer term, permanent solutions.
Scottsdale Water has been preparing for this shortage for over 20 years. We have a diverse water portfolio that includes Verde and Salt River water, groundwater, and reclaimed water. We have invested in wastewater lift stations, advanced technology for wastewater treatment and reuse, and water storage.
Our drinking water is not in danger. However, with the declaration of a Tier 1 shortage on Jan. 1, the Arizona supply of water was cut by about 18%, which primarily affected agriculture. Based on current projections, the outlook is that Arizona will advance to Tier 2a or 2b and possibly Tier 3 in the not too distant future. Tier 3 would have a significant effect on our Scottsdale water with surcharges and restrictions likely.
The time to act is now. Let’s be proactive, not retroactive. The city has asked us to reduce water use by 5%. With about 70% of residential water use for irrigation, this is the easiest way to reduce consumption. Make sure you are not watering the street and/or sidewalk. Adjust sprinklers as necessary.
Consider removing turf and replacing it with drought tolerant landscaping in the small patches that have over spray.
Use the WaterSmart technology -https://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/water/watersmart provided by the city to manage your water use.
Looking into the future, the new buzz term is to design a program for “Sustainable Growth.” My suggestions are pragmatic. Ensure that the current residents have sufficient water now and into the future. Provide water for the nearly 8,000 to 10,000 units under construction or already approved.
Recommend and mandate, to the greatest extend possible, the use of all available technology for water conservation for these units. Institute a moratorium on new residential/multifamily projects until the water shortage has been resolved. Don’t make the problem worse!
Proposals for new long-term solutions such as desalination and a water pipe line from water rich states are expensive and take years to accomplish. The desert southwest can sustain only a limited population. We are rapidly approaching, if not exceeding, that limit.
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