Republic: The success of Arizona’s ongoing water challenge

Monday, August 22, 2016

In an editorial, The Arizona Republic says Arizona will be hit hard when Lake Mead declares a water shortage, but work is underway to lessen the jolt.

Lake Mead is expected to be four feet above a level that would trigger restrictions in water use by Arizona and Nevada next year, according to the Bureau of Reclamation projections for the reservoir’s Jan. 1 level.

That’s a year’s reprieve. But it’s not a solution.

It represents an ongoing challenge.

Arizona has the expertise to meet this challenge, but it will also need the political will and bipartisan cooperation that long has characterized our desert state’s approach to water.

The state has been proactive in anticipation of falling lake levels because water experts know this isn’t just about a long drought.

“The fundamental problem is not drought,” says Sarah Porter, director, Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. “The fundamental problem is overallocation.”

The Colorado River is overallocated in the lower basin. More goes out than comes in, which results in a “structural deficit,” Porter says.

Under current guidelines, Arizona takes drastic cuts if a shortage is declared.

Working together with other states, Arizona’s water experts have come up with a drought-contingency plan that imposes tough restrictions proactively to stabilize water levels in Lake Mead and create a little more certainty on the future.

Managing Lake Mead will require the negotiating skills of Arizona’s water experts, as well as the cooperative efforts of elected officials and leadership from Gov. Doug Ducey.

READ: Our View: Water conservation saved us this year, but there's more to do