Arizona water officials warn the state could move into a deeper stage of drought by August
PHOENIX — The Colorado River has reached drastically low water levels and Arizona experts don’t see conditions improving in the near future.
The Colorado River Basin is seeing the driest conditions in more than 1,200 years, with the drought lasting over 22 years.
The Bureau of Reclamation last year declared the first-ever Tier 1 shortage for the Colorado River, cutting more than 500,000 acre-feet of water from Arizona due to drought conditions.
Now, the state could move into a Tier 2a water shortage.
“In Tier 2a, Arizona loses another 80,000 acre-feet,” Tom Buschatzke, the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said.
“I believe about half of that will be lost by Gila River Indian Community and the rest by Valley cities who have a non-Indian agricultural priority water.”
Buschatzke stresses Arizona homeowners won’t see much of an impact with the potential cut of 80,000 acre-feet.
“I don’t think that 80,000 acre-feet is going to result in a hue and cry in which they’re going to say you have to turn off your sprinklers outside or you can’t fill up your pool,” he said.
“It’s not that level of cut.”
The conditions of Lake Powell and Lake Mead were broken down in a media briefing on Monday.
Lake Powell is at an elevation of 3,523 feet which is 24% capacity. Buschatzke said it’s the lowest since the lake’s first filling.
Lake Mead’s water elevation is at 1,054 feet, which is 31% of capacity. Dan Bunk, with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the lake is projected to drop at least another 10 feet or so by this summer and he’s not particularly optimistic about either reservoir.
Buschatzke attributes the drought conditions to dry soil and higher temperatures in the west.