Getting a handle on Arizona’s water future

Thanks to media coverage of the California drought and a possible shortage declaration on the Colorado River, the future of Arizona’s water supplies is receiving increasing attention. There is a consensus among experts that Arizona faces a demand-supply gap; that is, in the next twenty-to-one hundred years, demand for water will exceed current available supplies.

In its annual Arroyo newsletter, published this week, the University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center* provides a thoughtful analysis of the demand-supply gap and strategies for addressing it. “Closing the Water Demand-Supply Gap in Arizona,” Arroyo (2015) is a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about Arizona’s water challenges.

A potential water demand-supply gap is nothing new for Arizona. As an arid state with communities whose water demands have long exceeded locally available supplies, Arizona has dealt with supply challenges through landmark legislation, such as the Groundwater Management Act, and engineering solutions, such as the Central Arizona Project, the Salt River Project and a host of smaller projects.

But we can’t get to solutions without first understanding the problem and our options for addressing it. As stated in the Arroyo, “By acknowledging and assessing the growing gap between sustainable water supplies and water demands, Arizona advances the process of statewide water planning for a secure water future.”

*WRRC’s director Sharon Megdal is a Distinguished Fellow of Morrison Institute and member of the Kyl Center for Water Policy Advisory Board.

– Sarah Porter, Director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute