ARIZONA, USA — Recent drought conditions are part of an ongoing 22-year megadrought. The latest consequences came this week when Lake Mead recorded its lowest levels since it was filled in the 1930s.
Federal Declaration Expected
Lake Mead has recorded 36% capacity, according to federal data. The meager water levels mean that the federal government is expected to declare an official shortage in August.
The Federal Drought Declaration will trigger a cutback of supply. Arizona will have to give up 17% of its allocation of water from the Colorado River, beginning in 2022.
Thirty-eight percent of Arizona's water supply comes from the Central Arizona Project originating from the Colorado River.
State Leaders Will Have to Make “Hard Decisions”
“There will be hard decisions that will have to be made,” said Assistant State Climatologist Erin Saffell.
Saffell said that farming and ranching operations in rural Arizona will likely experience the worst water cutbacks. Reducing their share of water could impact the price of food.
Arizona uses about three-fourths of its water supply on agriculture.
“It’s the law of supply and demand obviously,” Saffell said. “When you don’t have the lettuce, it’s going to be more expensive. And so those are considerations that will have to be considered by people that are managing water supply and other aspects of our economy.”
Arizonans living in big cities and suburbs could eventually face water conservation measures enacted by local and state governments.
“Things that might happen, they might raise the price of water. Cities might ask to conserve water,” Saffell said.
State Leaders Respond
In response to the prospect of Arizona losing a share of Colorado River water next year, state water managers released a statement saying in part, “These reductions are painful, but we are prepared.”
“As we face the prospect of a hotter and drier future, we are confident that with our long history of successful collaboration among our diverse stakeholders…we will continue to find innovative and effective solutions,” the statement reads.
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