KGUN 9NewsAZ Drought


Officials say Tucson is prepared for drought and water shortages

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Posted at 6:16 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 18:21:19-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A tier one water shortage was declared on the Colorado River this week for the first time ever. Water cutbacks have been triggered across the southwest. It’s been a long time coming.

“We’ve been in a drought on the Colorado River for 20 years,” said Tucson Water Interim Director John Kmiec. “We started seeing major declines in the late 2000s.”

Kmiec says a few wet years and the recent soakings this monsoon was not enough to avoid the tier one water shortage.

"It doesn't matter how much it rains in Tucson when we talk about the Colorado River, it matters how much snow they got in Colorado,” said Kmiec. “That is what dictates the river and Lake Powell and eventually Lake Mead.”

Farmers and Ranchers in Pinal County will suffer the biggest cuts, but the city of Tucson will continue getting the same allotment of Colorado River water until a tier three shortage is declared. Kmiec says Tucson is one of the most prepared cities in the west with decades of groundwater stored thanks to a water banking system.

“Two thirds of our annual delivery of CAP (Central Arizona Project) water is used on an annual basis,” he said. “So that means about one third of our annual allotment goes into the aquifer for future Tucsonan's use.

Unfortunately, despite reserves of groundwater, our area is not immune to water rate increases. Continued drought would mean the cost of Colorado River water is likely to go up over time.

“Tucson has enough water to thrive going into the future, but not enough to waste.”

Kmiec says water conservation will continue to be an important issue in the years to come.

“Everybody for the most part has adapted to desert landscaping and low water use plants and that is the thing we continue to encourage.”