Arizona among states facing deadline for plan to cut river water use

The commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation challenged the Colorado River Basin states in June.
The commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation challenged the Colorado River Basin states in June.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 9:18 AM MST|Updated: Aug. 13, 2022 at 10:53 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona is one of seven states facing a major challenge from federal officials: to make big cuts to the water we use from the Colorado River. Federal officials gave the Colorado River Basin states a mid-August deadline to come up with a plan.

With Lake Mead and Lake Powell at historic lows, for the first time in history, a shortage was declared on the Colorado River in the last year. Arizona’s Family spoke with water policy experts at Arizona State University about the issue.

IN-DEPTH: Arizona to face water cuts after first-ever water shortage declared.

Sarah Porter, the director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, says the deadline for the Colorado River Basin states stems from a federal hearing in June. The Bureau of Reclamation commissioner then challenged the states to come up with ways to save between 2 and 4 million acre-feet of water from the system. Just for perspective, Porter says one acre of water is roughly 325,851 gallons. That’s enough water for four efficient, single-family homes for one year, she says.

Porter says making those drastic cuts is an incredibly difficult thing to do because in a good year the states take about 15 million acre-feet of water from the system. In the last decade, experts have already found easy ways to conserve water, she says, and users in central Arizona are already taking cuts, farmers in particular.

“Very likely we are going to see a lot of hardship in our important agricultural regions,” she said. “You know Yuma produces the winter vegetables for the United States and Canada from November to May. Like 90% of the winter vegetables that we eat in the United States and Canada come from Yuma.”

Porter tells Arizona’s Family throughout the Colorado basin, agriculture uses about 75% of the water. Next week the Bureau of Reclamation will release a study with projections on how the reservoirs will do over the next two years. While Porter thinks there will be some sort of move to conserve, how much we have to cut is impossible to guess. Whether or not the states came up with a plan and the timing of the announcement is unclear, but Porter says we should know more by Aug. 16.

“The Colorado River is not the sole source of water for communities impacted by these shortages. So we don’t need to worry that our taps are going to go dry,” Porter said. “There are backup supplies, there are other sources of supply, but there is just less water available.”

How can you conserve water at home? Porter suggests checking sprinkler systems, making sure you have no leaks, don’t overwater, and cover your pool. She also says to think about replacing grass with climate-adaptive plants if no one is enjoying it.

“The biggest single thing we can do is reduce the amount of water we are using outside,” Porter said. “Ninety-three percent of the water that we use inside, that goes down the drain or is flushed, is reclaimed and reused. So it’s good to conserve water indoors, but that water that we use outdoors and for many households, that’s more than 50% of the water they use.”

Officials from the City of Phoenix water department also joined Arizona’s Family Friday morning to talk about the ongoing drought pipeline project. Check out the video below:

The City of Phoenix is also taking a closer look at how much water it uses.

Read more on how the city is saving water.