At the April Phoenix Chapter meeting, we were fortunate to have ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke as our guest speaker. Along with a brief summary of Arizona’s water management strategy to date, Mr. Buschatzke discussed the current state of our water supplies in Arizona, as well as the issues and challenges that lay ahead. Short-term water resource challenges identified by ADWR include the communication of water issues affecting the state, local groundwater management issues, and the likelihood of shortages on the Colorado River system. Long-term challenges include the ongoing drought, potential increases in demand for water, and possible shortages on the Colorado.
While Arizona is not facing an immediate water crisis, there is a growing statewide imbalance between existing and projected supplies, and projected demand. According to January model data from the Colorado River Simulation System (CRSS) provided by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, shortages at Lake Mead may occur as soon as 2016, with the probability of any level of shortage (Mead ≤1,075 feet above mean sea level) at 21% in 2016. Updated modeling data should be out in April of this year, with the probability of shortage likely to increase. Water resources in rural areas of the state are currently more stressed than in urban areas, particularly in the southeastern part of the state, and ADWR has received a petition for the Initiation of Procedures to Designate an Irrigation Non-Expansion Area (INA) for the San Simon Valley Sub-Basin.
In order to address these challenges, and continue the success of previous water management strategies, Arizona developed a strategic vision for water supply sustainability and planning that includes the possibility of continued drought on the Colorado River Basin. International cooperation with Mexico may also play an important role in Arizona’s water future, with the possibility of a binational desalination partnership and a voluntary cut in Mexico’s Colorado allocation that may be the deciding factor in preventing a shortage at Lake Mead.