Is Central Arizona at risk?
You've most likely heard of the massive drought across the West and wondered, "What does this mean for me, for Greater Phoenix? Will we run out of water?"
The answer is no, we're prepared.
However, Arizona is in the midst of a 21-year drought. And this past winter's El Nino weather pattern did not deliver relief.
Amid all this dire news, why is Greater Phoenix not facing water rationing or other mandatory reduction measures?
Because Central Arizona Project (CAP), Salt River Project (SRP), the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) and Valley municipalities have worked ceaselessly to ensure the region remains a global leader in water resource management and drought preparedness through investment in infrastructure that provides access to multiple water supplies, allows for the storage of water underground, the implementation of pioneering water laws and a long-term commitment to conservation.
Valley residents and water providers have made significant investments in the necessary infrastructure to ensure our water supply is reliable and diverse. And, unlike most cities in the U.S., Greater Phoenix actually has access to four sources of water.
Valley citizens recognized early in the 20th century that periods of drought are a normal occurrence in the desert Southwest and that significant investments in infrastructure were necessary to ensure certainty to a reliable water supply. Today, CAP manages the water supply system that delivers the Colorado River supply; SRP manages seven reservoirs that store water from the Salt and Verde rivers and the East Clear Creek watershed.
Additionally, SRP operates over 250 high-capacity groundwater wells that supplement water from the reservoirs, and manages the water supply system that delivers this water. Local municipalities not only treat and deliver the water from CAP and SRP to residents and businesses, but also treat, manage and deliver reclaimed water, as well as operate an extensive groundwater supply system.
Underground, emergency reserves
Since 1994, when underground water storage began in central Arizona, CAP and SRP, in partnership with the Arizona Water Banking Authority and municipalities, have stored over 3 million acre-feet of reclaimed water and Colorado River water. Stored water in underground aquifers is intended to serve as a reserve supply to be used during periods of water shortages or drought.
Tough water laws
The Phoenix metropolitan area sits in one of the state's Active Management Areas (AMAs). Water providers and users within the AMA are bound to water use requirements that are outlined in the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, which was designed to protect the availability of groundwater and reduce water use. Current laws require developers and municipalities to prove that a 100-year assured water supply is available for each development. The 1980 law also imposes water conservation requirements on all water users and incentivizes the use of renewable water. As a result, groundwater levels in many areas of metro Phoenix have risen since enactment — an almost unheard of phenomenon in the Western United States.
Valley municipalities have mandatory conservation requirements identified in the Groundwater Management Act and outlined in 10-year management plans produced by ADWR. Each city has imposed a wide variety of water conservation programs that promote the use of low-water-use landscaping, water-efficient appliances and fixtures, and new water-saving technologies.
These methods are working; despite a fivefold increase in population, Arizona uses the same amount of water as it did in 1957.