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Professor: Water crisis avoidable if planned for now

PHOENIX — Arizona could face a water crisis in the next 25 years but that can be avoided if the state starts planning now, a professor said.

“We’re not at a crisis,” Dr. Sharon Megdal, director of the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona. “I think that is the first thing we should get out there. What all the water planners, officials and decision-makers are saying is that we have to look to the future and we have to plan now for our growing population, for the fact that we may even be an extended drought.”

But that planning has already been put into motion.

“I think we’ve done a good job overall,” said Megdal. “We’ve been a good state…at water conservation and efficient use.”

That planning includes things like the Central Arizona Project at Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the nation.

“We’ve planned for the future,” said Megdal. “We’ve stored water underground, we put a groundwater management act in place so that we don’t overdraft aquifers in certain parts of the state.”

Megdal said the plans currently being explored include everything from smarter use of waste water, such as an outdoor-only watering system, and even desalination.

“In Arizona you might say, ‘Where is our sea,’ but we’re talking about possibly entering into arrangements with California or Mexico whereby we help pay for some desalinated seawater for them and, in exchange, take some of their Colorado River water.”

People also need to be involved, according to Megdal. She said those who want to help can do simple things, like take shorter showers and water their lawns less.

While Average Joe may not see every step taken to preserve Arizona’s water sources, Megdal said herself and water planners statewide are working to avoid a crisis well before there is one.

“We don’t want to get to the point where we all look at each other and say, ‘Why didn’t we talk about this 25 years ago.'”