News Feature | June 5, 2017

As Lake Mead Struggles, Arizona Faces Water Cutbacks

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Water woes at Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, could have a bigger impact on Arizona than on any of the other states that it serves.

A new report by Western Resource Advocates, a conservation group, identifies the stark challenges Arizona faces.

“Arizona’s bank for 40 percent of its water — Lake Mead on the Colorado River — is being drained faster than it can be filled. Projections show that if no action is taken to address the gap between supply and demand, Lake Mead could reach a critical stage within the next few years, triggering progressively larger, mandatory restrictions on Colorado River water use that could have a devastating impact on Arizona’s communities, agriculture, environment, and economy,” the report said.

This is not a long-term problem, according to the report. Arizona could see consequences in the next couple years.

“As soon as 2019, the water level in Lake Mead on the Colorado River could drop below an elevation of 1,075 feet. That will trigger mandatory cutbacks in water diversions from the reservoir under an agreement negotiated between the federal government and three lower-basin states that rely on the river: Arizona, California and Nevada,” News Deeply reported.

“The group concluded that farmers would be first to feel the pinch; that suburban growth in Phoenix and Tucson could be slowed by cutbacks; and the cities themselves could face water reductions by 2020,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.

In a state where water can still feel like an “academic issue,” there may be a “rude wakeup call” on the horizon.

“Arizona will feel Colorado River cutbacks the worst, because it has relatively low-priority water rights. It also relies on the river more heavily than the other states. It would lose 320,000 acre-feet of water under shortage conditions in 2019, or about 12 percent of its Colorado River supply,” News Deeply reported.

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