Where is all the water going?
With temperatures well over 110 degrees recorded in the middle of the summer, there’s no objection that Phoenix, Arizona is hot. However, with this heat comes the concern of water usage and the conservation of it. As temperatures continue to rise, and water supplies continue to decline, and there’s now a fear of a complete depletion of water.
Water in desert oriented states, especially in high temperature states is scarce. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, “Phoenix gets about half it’s water from Lake Mead which is located about 24 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, and Tucson nearly all of its.” The other 44 percent of water comes from ground water collected during the rainy season.
According to AZcentral.com, “If the Colorado River is declared in a shortage, Arizona could face its first water-supply cut.” The water supply in Wilcox alone has dropped about 143 feet in the past 20 years. This is forcing farmers to make financial decisions on whether to dig deeper for ground water or to cut back on production.
Phoenix generated data shows the amount of water supply is steadily declining. In the last 5 years Phoenix has lost about 2,219,659 centum cubic feet (CCF). A centum cubic foot represents one hundred cubic feet of water. According to AZcentral, “A new study by NASA and the University of California-Irvine found the Colorado River basin has lost 41 million acre-feet of groundwater since 2004. That’s the equivalent of the entire amount of water in Lake Mead when it’s full, plus half of another Lake Mead. Enough to supply the residential water needs of every person in America for one year.”
As of now, with a well working conservation system, the city has managed to keep the amount gained higher than consumed meaning the city has some water to spare. This is not to say that water is coming back up. The cities conservation program has managed to scrape by with 6 percent of water left in the reservoir.
Neighboring cities around Phoenix have also started to enforce strict water conservation methods. Tucson, which is about an hour and a half outside of Phoenix, has offered residential rebates ranging from $75 to $2,000 for those willing to replace high usage toilets and clothes washers with water efficient models, according to the City of Tucson website.
Socorro Berkland, a resident in Tucson explains how their city is combating against the depleting water amongst the state, “At work, we got fined for accidentally watering the street and wasting water,” she said.
Conservation efforts are just the first step for Tucson and all of Pima County. The City of Tucson in November reported that residents are now using water at the same level of use as in 1985, even while the population has increased by more than 226,000 people. The city strategy involved increasing the use of renewable Colorado River water, using reclaimed water for irrigation purposes as well as implementing conservation ordinances and incentives for residents and businesses.
Phoenix isn’t the only city in dire need of water. Many of the states residing along the Southwest are experiencing rainless monsoon seasons putting them in danger due to dry brush and over consumption.
El Paso, another south west city is also experiencing a severe drought. According to the El Paso Water Utilities the city is using more than 95 percent of their produced water. As of 2016, the city of El Paso used about 10,000,000 CCFs more than they produced. When this happens El Paso must use water saved in the various water tanks around the city. As of July, 2017 new water tanks have been rising to combat both drought and emergencies such as the massive freeze that rolled around in 2011.
As of now, Phoenix.gov said, “The water supply is in good shape.” Their water isn’t based on annual precipitation but from the water that melts off snow caps which melt into reservoirs. They are also not placing mandatory water restrictions. Their website says, “If during the next ten-to-fifteen years, the west was to experience widespread drought conditions that are as bad or worse than we’ve seen over the past fifteen years…Phoenix would initiate mandatory water use restrictions that go beyond our traditional low water use lifestyle.”
Their solution to the statewide drought is to continue to take individual responsibility on water usage. Each individual should watch how much water their consuming and remind their fellow businesses and neighbors to conserve water for the sustainability of the city for the next 50 to 100 years.