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Long drought taking toll on CAP water system that supplies Tucson and Phoenix

A Tier 1 shortage has been declared for 2022
CAP pump station.jpg
Posted at 6:34 AM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 09:34:39-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — The Central Arizona Project is an engineering marvel. It brings water from the Colorado River through the Phoenix and Tucson areas. It allowed for many years of population growth, but a long drought on the river system is taking its toll.

“The near-term outlook is caution and the reservoirs are in a declining state,” said CAP Assistant General Manager Darrin Francom.

2022 is the first year a Tier 1 shortage has ever been declared on the Colorado River. The biggest impact right now is on farmers in Pinal County.

Francom says more shortages could be just around the bend.

“Right now, we are looking at a near 50/50 chance for 2023 that we could stay at a Tier 1 or move to a Tier 2a.”

Municipalities would likely not start seeing cuts until a Tier 3 shortage.

“In general, as we get into deeper cuts ultimately there will be some pressure on municipal and industrial users,” said Francom.

According to Tucson Water, the Tucson area has decades worth of groundwater supplies if the flow from the Colorado was ever stopped.

“Tucson and many other municipalities have had forward thinking leaders,” said Francom.

But he went on to say that more inventive solutions may be needed in Arizona. Things like sea water desalination and recycling wastewater. He says decisions about water conservation would be up to each municipality.

“I think each city and municipality will have to see what fits their water users, their growth plan, and I would not want to pontificate on what that might be.”

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Brian Brennan is a Meteorologist and reporter for KGUN 9. Brian’s fascination with weather began as a kid in Arizona watching the intense thunderstorms during monsoon. Seeing ice fall from the sky (in the form of hail) onto the hot desert got him hooked. Brian also has a passion for telling people’s stories and reporting. He has covered major breaking news, court trials, Nellis Air Force Base, and has put himself at the center of many weather events. Share your story ideas and important issues with Brian by emailing brian.brennan@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.