Rosie Romero Special for the Arizona Daily Star
Question: I have heard and read a lot about water scarcity. What does this mean for me as a homeowner?
Answers: There’s a lot of information out there about the drought – what’s causing it and how we can be sure Arizona residents will have enough water.
Vineetha Kartha, Colorado River program manager for the Central Arizona Project (CAP), explains where we source our water:
Arizona gets more than 30% of its water from the Colorado River Basin. The basin is divided into an upper basin – Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming; and a lower basin—Arizona, California, Nevada, and by treaty parts of northern Mexico.
Each basin has a large reservoir. The upper basin reservoir is Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border and the lower basin reservoir is Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border.
Lake Powell and Lake Mead work “conjunctively”. This means that the operations of one affect the other. The system is designed so that runoff originating from the upper basin fills Lake Powell and Lake Mead is filled by releases from Lake Powell and intervening rivers below Glen Canyon Dam.
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As reported on KOLD on May 19, Tucson receives about 144,000 acre-feet of water from Lake Mead annually and uses only about 100,000. The city stores the excess underground and has contained CAP water for more than seven years.
The water shortage
Kartha notes that since January 1, Lake Mead has been operating under a Tier 1 scarcity declaration declared by the US Secretary of the Interior. This has resulted in a significant reduction in Arizona’s share of the Colorado River – about 30% of CAP’s normal supply; about 18% of the supply of the Colorado River in Arizona; and just under 8% of Arizona’s total water use. These mandatory reductions in Arizona are borne by our GAP water users. The result has been reduced availability of Colorado River water for agricultural users in central Arizona.
The Colorado River Basin is in a prolonged drought. We are witnessing the driest conditions in the Colorado River Basin in more than 1,200 years – and these conditions are expected to continue well into the future.
Both Lake Powell and Lake Mead are nearing critical heights and will require unprecedented management actions to protect infrastructure in both Upper Lower Colorado River basins. Protection of infrastructure protects the water supply.
Impact on homeowners
It’s likely that Arizona will have a Tier 2 shortage next year.
The Arizona Republic reported May 4 that Scottsdale and Tucson said they are in the first phase of their respective drought plans and are reducing government water use. Phoenix plans to start taking payments from the state in lieu of some of its shipments along the Colorado River next year, part of the state’s recent efforts to curb the drought.
While this situation is serious, it is important to note that there is no threat to the supply of homes and businesses in 2023. But prospects for Arizona’s Colorado River supply certainly warrant additional action.
Everyone should commit to conserving water for the precious resource it is. Saving may delay or reduce further mandatory reductions in our offering.
Compliance with groundwater laws
The Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD) was formed in the mid-1990s to help water utilities and landowners comply with Arizona’s groundwater laws. It is made up of cities, towns and private water utilities called Member Service Areas and Subdivisions, known as Member Lands. It is a special feature of the Central Arizona Project, which serves the same service area with three counties – Maricopa, Pima and Pinal Counties.
CAGRD plays an important role in Arizona’s groundwater management by replenishing groundwater pumped by our members.
In 1980, Arizona passed the Groundwater Management Act, one of the toughest groundwater laws in the country. This law regulated groundwater pumping in the most densely populated areas of Arizona. It also created the Assured Water Supply Program, which states that new developments may rely on groundwater but must ensure a 100-year groundwater supply, which must also be replenished.
The Arizona legislature created CAGRD to provide water utilities and landowners who rely on groundwater with a mechanism to refill their groundwater pumps. CAGRD replenishes water in our aquifers – layers of sand and gravel beneath the earth. They send water to fill up basins where the water seeps into the aquifer.
What can you do?
Laura Grignano, CAGRD manager, encourages each of us to commit to at least one thing to save water. It’s important to learn about our water suppliers’ drought plans and their water conservation programs.
CAGRD recently launched a conservation campaign. By its very nature, CAGRD aims to protect our precious water resources – replenishing the water our members pump and replenishing our aquifers.
While CAGRD is not a water utility, it also supports and encourages conservation – because less groundwater use means less water to replenish.
Additionally, CAGRD recently launched a digital conservation campaign that you may see on your social media feeds. Links to a specific page will include Water Use It Wisely, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, and Arizona Water Facts.
Yes, we are in a drought. There is no doubt about that. We all have to do our part, but panic and misinformation is not the answer. Stay tuned to Rosie on the House as we continue to monitor this issue closely.
There is a wealth of ideas and technology that can help solve tomorrow’s problems, but it is individual water conservation that can solve today’s problems.
Think twice about the water you use in your daily life. Remember that saving energy equals saving water.
Rosie Romero has been an Arizona home construction and remodeling industry expert since 1988 and is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning radio show Rosie on the House, which can be heard locally from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on KNST (790-AM) in Tucson and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m is on KGVY (1080-AM) and (100.7-FM) in Green Valley.