Drought brings about new water usage cuts, impacts farmers

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The current drought hitting the west has caused Lake Mead to fall to its lowest levels since it was formed by the hoover dam back in the 1930s. The low water levels signal water “cutbacks” for states using colorado river water, including arizona. We learned more from sarah porter, director of asu’s kyl center for water policy.

Porter said that she wasn’t necessarily surprised to see such low water levels, and that water management experts have foreseen such a drought for arguably decades.

“It won’t fill up this summer, and we should all hope for heavy snow pack in the Rockies this fall and winter. It’s snow pack from the upper Rockies that fill the Colorado River reservoirs,” Porter said.

Water managers in the area have agreed to voluntary cuts in usage at corresponding levels in the lake. Porter said that, with the current levels that Mead is at, the state has agreed to a cut of about 1/3 of the water delivered through the CAP, or the Central Arizona canal.

“It’s a significant cut for a variety of reasons. Most of the impact will be felt by farmers in Pinal county,” the water policy center director said. Historically, they are a large water user and after bargaining with other water users for subsidies, they’re particularly vulnerable.

One way that these farmers may circumvent the impact of the drought is by increasing their groundwater pumping, which water managers expect to increase. Still, Porter said that it’s a concern.

“This means that they’re using up a non-renewing supply of water that won’t be available for other uses in the future, such as urbanization,” she said.

Porter added that cities and towns shouldn’t expect too much of an impact from this cut.

Sarah Porter, Director, ASU's Kyl Center for Water Policy

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