In a few days, on August 16th, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation is expected to declare a Tier 2 Shortage for Lake Mead, which will trigger additional cuts to Arizona’s Colorado River allocation.
Lake Mead and Lake Powell water levels are down, and the Bureau oversees the Colorado River infrastructure. The conditions on the Colorado are not predicted to improve any time in the near future.
In addition to the anticipated shortage declaration earlier this year, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation directed all seven Colorado River basin states, including Arizona, to create a plan to cut 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water in 2023. They gave the states 60 days to accomplish the herculean task, or the Bureau will step in to make the cuts.
We anticipate significant national media stories with a narrative that Arizona is running out of water. While there will be real reductions due to the Colorado River conditions, the heated simplistic rhetoric misses the full story.
Arizona has been a world leader in water management for decades and has planned for the prolonged western drought we are currently experiencing. While Colorado River water is a resource we must protect, Arizona has other water resources that will remain available to meet the needs of residents and businesses.
The SRP reservoir system is only one example of notable surface water infrastructure systems that provide water for millions of Arizona residents. The SRP system is currently above 60% of its total capacity, which is a comfortable place to be at this point in the year.
Many Colorado River users have also been storing significant volumes of water underground for use during a shortage just like what we are experiencing today. According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Arizona has stored more than 3 trillion gallons of water underground. Which is the equivalent of the amount of water the City of Phoenix would use over 30 years.
Arizona has been proactive in preparing for the situation we are seeing today. In fact, we use less water today than we did in the 1980s, despite significant increases to our population.
There are economic development realities for the state and region as these announcements are released. When the media reports that Arizona is running out of water, we hope you will view those reports in context.
Please share with others that Arizona has planned for the drought and will continue to make prudent investments in water infrastructure and maintain a legal environment that will position this state to continue to serve the water that residents and businesses need to thrive.
Colin Diaz is president and CEO of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce. Visit tempechamber.org.