Throughout Western and Central Arizona, people rely on water from the Colorado River to serve drinking water systems, agricultural districts, and industries.
The Colorado River has long been one of the most stressed river systems in the world. It has a legacy of overuse that has worsened in recent decades because of rapid economic development, population growth and ecosystem decline. Now, we’re facing the reality that climate change is a critical threat to the river. Climate change is predicted to cause substantial reductions in the Colorado’s flow — of 25% or more — in the decades to come.
Central Arizona is first in line for cutbacks when a Colorado River shortage is declared, so Arizona water stakeholders must have credible, unbiased research to make important decisions about how water is used.
Right now, the federal government manages the Colorado River under the Drought Contingency Plan. But that plan expires at the end of 2026, which means more negotiations about Colorado River guidelines are on the horizon. The data synthesis and visualizations that the Kyl Center is producing will help all parties who use Colorado River water engage in the negotiation process. The CuRVE project will mean more people can take part in working toward solutions that will help sustain the river in the face of climate change risks.
A few of Arizona’s largest Colorado River water stakeholders have the teams of lawyers, modelers, and technical policy experts necessary to chart a strategy for dealing with the shortage and future drought plan negotiations. Others — including smaller cities and Indian communities, agricultural districts, and many parts of the business community — do not. Like the general public, these stakeholders are mainly reliant on a limited, difficult-to-interpret set of publicly available data when it comes to information about the potential future of the Colorado River. The CuRVE project will help stakeholders with fewer data-interpretation resources fill their knowledge gaps with up-to-date, unbiased information.