Panel Discussion: Colorado River Issues

On August 5, the Chamber’s Agriculture, Environment and Water Committee hosted a discussion on Colorado River Basin water supplies, water elevation levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell, and the potential impacts of project water shortages on the region.  Thomas McCann, Assistant General Manager of Operations, Planning and Engineering of the Central Arizona Project, and Thomas Buschatzke, Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources joined us for this informative discussion.

The Colorado River provides water to over 30 million people and nearly two million acres of agriculture in Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.  The river is also a part of several hydroelectric plants generating 13 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year.

According to the State of the Colorado River, the Colorado River Basin is in its 15th year of drought. Currently, the Colorado River Basin operates at a structural deficit, with a current shortage of 23 million acre feet of water.

Since 2007, when the Secretary of the Interior adopted the “Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead,” several studies have been conducted to determine Colorado River Basin supply and demand shortages.

A three-year study conducted between 2010 and 2012 confirmed there will likely be significant differences between projected water supply and demand. While a Colorado River water shortage in 2016 or 2017 is possible, there will not be a direct impact to the water supplies for cities, residential water users or Native American tribes in those years.

Water groups around the state, including CAP and ADWR, are working together to address concerns regarding the current and potential future shortfalls of Colorado River Basin water.

Any future Colorado River Basin water shortfalls will impact all of Arizona as well as the six Basin states, and it’s important that groups work to protect Arizona’s Colorado River supplies.

For more information about the Colorado River Basin visit the Department of Water’s website.

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