State lawmakers gear up for tough decisions on water

NOAA Climate.gov

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services 

Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona lawmakers appear finally ready to act on a more permanent solution to the fact that it’s hotter and dryer — and there just isn’t enough water to sustain the state’s growth.

And that could involve not only the state spending far more money than it has before but some creative solutions, ranging from piping and treating salt water from the Sea of Cortez to what is commonly known as “toilet to tap.”

The consensus comes as prior efforts to stabilize Arizona’s water supply have come up short.

RELATED:Colorado River forecast improves with early snow, but the outlook could still change

By a lot.

Facing a diminished supply of Colorado River water, lawmakers in 2019 adopted a “drought contingency plan.” It required Arizona and other states in the lower Colorado River basin to reduce the amount of water being taken from the river in an attempt to restore the level of Lake Mead to 1,090 feet.

Even Ducey conceded at the time that was just a temporary solution, designed to preclude further cuts until 2026, by which time there would be new plans.

As of this past week, however, the lake had dropped to less than 1,070 feet. That’s less than 200 feet above “dead pool,” the point at which no water would pass through Hoover Dam, cutting off not just that supply but also the electricity the dam generates.

In the interim, Arizona has enacted some other short-term fixes, like buying — or, more to the point, renting — the river allocations that belong to Arizona tribes, convincing them not to use their Colorado River allocations to keep Lake Mead from dropping any further. That included a $30 million infusion just this past October, on top of $40 million already provided to the Department of Water Resources for the same purpose.

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