Jun 18 2018Share

5 Things You Need To Know Right Now About Arizona’s Drought

By Warren Tenney

Arizona water supplies are under pressure from ongoing drought, climate change and the over-allocation of the Colorado River among states. Here’s what you need to know about how your AMWUA cities are handling this record-breaking drought.  

1. Cities are well aware of the facts. Water professionals understand that Arizona is facing a drought that some scientists are beginning to categorize as a mega-drought. Arizona has been in a state of drought for approximately 22 years, surpassing the worst drought in more than 110 years of record keeping. Water leaders in AMWUA cities are realists who understand the challenges presented by this weather, climate change and the over allocation of water supplies. 

2. Cities are not surprised. While these conditions are concerning, they are not surprising to desert cities. Limited precipitation and extended cycles of drought are expected in the desert. AMWUA cities have planned, built and managed their communities and their water supplies with this kind of drought in mind. Multiple sources of water - Salt and Verde River water, Colorado River water, recycled wastewater, unused water stored underground in previous years, and a certain amount of groundwater - enable the cities to offset reductions in one or more supplies. Your cities already have provided safe and reliable water to meet the needs of residents and businesses throughout this record-breaking drought – and will continue to do so. 

3. Cities never stop seeking solutions. Our desert cities will run out of water when they stop planning and investing in solutions. That’s why professionals are working every day building partnerships among themselves and with other agencies to share water infrastructure, water storage space, water and wastewater treatment plants, and water conservation programs. Here are just a few recent examples.

  • The City of Tucson is storing water for the City of Phoenix. During a shortage, Tucson will use the Phoenix water stored in its wells, while Phoenix will take an equal amount of Tucson’s Colorado River water directly from the canal to its treatment plant. 
  • Avondale is finally receiving its allotment of Colorado River water through a hook up to a Phoenix drinking water main line and Phoenix is storing water in Avondale’s aquifer.
  • The Salt River Project has agreed to deliver the City of Goodyear’s allotment of Colorado River water to its new treatment plant so it can stop pumping groundwater from its limited aquifer.
  • AMWUA cities have contributed to efforts to leave water in Lake Mead, the giant reservoir on the Colorado River, and stop it from falling to a level where the federal government would declare a shortage. A Level 1 federal shortage declaration would reduce Colorado River water used by some Arizona farmers, damage the state’s reputation as a leading water manager, and raise the cost of water for everyone.

4. Cities will alert you when projected demand outstrips projected water supplies. Cities understand that the day may come when their well-planned supplies will be strained by shortage and drought. Each AMWUA city has a tiered shortage preparedness plan in place. These plans will be activated should a city calculate that its water supplies are getting low enough that they may not comfortably meet demand. Cities will ask its homeowners, HOAs, building managers and businesses to reduce demand. You may be asked to limit irrigation, turn off water features, use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway or porch, or not to empty and refill your pool. 

5. Cities thank you for your help. Desert dwellers are smart. For decades, they have understood that living in the beautiful Sonoran Desert means conserving water where possible. Many homeowners and businesses have replaced their old appliances and fixtures with new low-water versions. Many residential and commercial landscapes are created with drought resistant and native trees and plants that provide shade, help to reduce outdoor water demand and save money. Many residents have learned to operate their irrigation controllers and monitor their irrigation systems for leaks. Some HOAs have taken advantage of free irrigation experts available through their cities to keep equipment working efficiently. We have a culture of conservation in the Valley and need to continue to encourage our neighbors and new comers to use water wisely. 

The AMWUA shortage and drought page will keep you up to date about supply and demand issues. The AMWUA website, weekly Blog, Facebook, and Twitter also will keep you informed about drought, policy issues, ways to help conserve, and how cities continue to plan to meet your water needs during continuing drought and supply shortages. 

For 49 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit

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