You really have to hand it to Arizona: Even as its population has doubled and it has suffered through a decades long megadrought, the state uses less water today than it did 40 years ago.
The Department of the Interior announced $84.7 million in funding for 36 drought resiliency projects in the West. The investment supports the development of innovative drought resilience efforts, such as groundwater storage, rainwater harvesting, aquifer recharge, water reuse, ion exchange treatment, and other methods to stretch existing water supplies.
A state board tasked with vetting water supply augmentation proposals for Arizona on Tuesday passed a nonbinding resolution in support of a potentially massive seawater desalination plant in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. A partnership led by Israeli desalination specialists IDE Technologies pitched the multibillion-dollar plan to the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona’s board, saying it could replace or complement declining Colorado River water that flows through the Central Arizona Project’s canal. The plant would remove salt from seawater and pump it north into the canal, where it would flow through Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties.
The speeches at the Colorado River summit in Las Vegas last week ranged all the way from pessimistic to panicked. Ted Cooke, the outgoing director of the Central Arizona Project, summed it up: “(T)here’s a real possibility of an effective dead pool“ at Lake Mead, making it impossible to release water through Hoover Dam for downstream delivery to Arizona and California.
The Southwest’s next source of water might be gurgling through the sewage pipes under this corner of Los Angeles County, an untapped stream in a Colorado River Basin that is otherwise tapped out. Indirectly, Arizonans are poised to reap the benefits of a plan to recycle the last drops from a river that begins as Rocky Mountain snow but ends as treated wastewater dumped into the Pacific Ocean.
Arizona is preparing to enter for the first time into a Tier 2A shortage for the lower Colorado River basin, with cuts beginning at the start of the new year. For the state, this means a reduction of 21% of Arizona’s Colorado river supply and about 9% of the state’s total water use, according to the Central Arizona Project. Cities that use the Colorado river will see a 3% reduction while tribal supplies will be reduced by 7%. And for the users of CAP water, there will no longer be excess water and agriculture pools from the Colorado River.
More than 500 households in the rural Arizona desert are set to be without running water starting January 1, 2023, as first reported by NBC News. The homes, located in Rio Verde Foothills—an affluent, unincorporated community in the state’s Maricopa County, were built without complying to Arizona’s usual 100-year water supply requirement.
Cowboy Michael Klaren heaved hay bales onto his wagon, climbed aboard and urged his two workhorses to drag it across a meadow, the ground spongy with the meltwater from a snowstorm. Wet boots had raised his spirits on this March morning, as had two wet cow dogs he called Woodrow and Gus. The meadow was off to a more promising head start on spring than he had come to expect after years of drought.
Tobyn Pilot took a few crunchy footsteps through the rough red dirt near the edge of a towering cliff. Pilot, an operator at the water plant in Page, Arizona, pulled out a hefty collection of keys and unlocked a tiny plywood-paneled shed just a few feet from the brink. The building is barely bigger than an outhouse, but it’s a pivotal part of keeping the taps flowing.
Two decades of the Southwest megadrought have marked Arizona’s driest period in 1,200 years. With climate change in full swing, greenhouse emissions well above pledged targets and the state facing cutbacks to its share of dwindling Colorado River water, many wonder: Is drought the new normal?