Drought & Shortage

Drought & Shortage

Ongoing drought, climate change, and over-allocation of the Colorado River system place increasing pressure on Arizona’s water supplies.

The Issue

Drought & Shortage

Lake Mead

Efforts to stabilize reservoir levels on Lake Mead are critically important to ensure certainty of water supplies for the water users in the Lower Basin.

Arizona has been in a state of drought for over 20 years, surpassing the worst drought in more than 110 years of record keeping. Multiple dry winters with limited precipitation, combined with hot and dry summers, have intensified drought conditions across the State.  

While these conditions are concerning, they are not unexpected because limited precipitation and extended drought cycles regularly occur when you live in the desert. Still, this current drought and its impact on the Colorado River have been historic, and with an anticipated hotter and drier future, these conditions will worsen. 

AMWUA's members have planned, built, and managed their communities and their water supplies with that in mind, ensuring adequate water to meet the needs of their residents and businesses through the past two decades and even as the drought continues. 

  • Diverse water supplies
    The water we utilize here in the Valley is not just from the Colorado River, which represents only a portion of your city's water portfolio. The AMWUA cities also use water from the Salt and Verde Rivers, reclaimed water, and a small percentage of groundwater. By investing in and protecting their rights to these multiple water supplies, the cities are better prepared for the long-term and any short-term challenges that may arise. As we plan for a drier future, the AMWUA cities will continue wise water stewardship by investing, protecting, and enhancing our water supplies, ensuring viability into the future. Having more than one water source allows for a more robust economy for the Valley and a more sustainable way of life for all of us here in the desert.
  • Infrastructure
    Our water supply systems are built to manage extended periods of limited precipitation. Reservoirs on both the Colorado River and the Salt and Verde Rivers capture vast amounts of water during wet periods for times when there is less precipitation. To ensure safe and clean water reaches households, industries, and businesses in this Valley, cities must have the infrastructure to treat and deliver water daily. Of all infrastructure types, water systems are the most fundamental to life. That is why infrastructure is a continual priority for the AMWUA cities and all water providers. This includes making the financial commitment to invest in the maintenance, replacement, and expansion of their water infrastructure. The collective infrastructure of the AMWUA cities consists of 30 water treatment plants, over 18,000 miles of water lines, 142,000 fire hydrants, and more than one million water meters. All of which highlights the extent of the infrastructure needed to deliver water every single day.
  • Recycling
    This is a renewable water source, most often called recycled water or treated wastewater. All AMWUA cities have been maximizing the use of reclaimed water for decades by putting the vast majority to beneficial use. It is used for energy production, creating riparian habitats, irrigating sports fields, golf courses, non-edible crops, and commercial landscapes. The cities also use recycled water for recharging aquifers by storing water underground, so it is available for use when needed. The cities also champion new technology that would allow for direct potable reuse in the future.
  • Underground storage
    Over the past two decades or so, the AMWUA cities have collectively invested hundreds of millions of dollars in storing over 2.5 million acre-feet of water underground. That's enough water to meet the ten AMWUA municipalities' needs for more than two years. However, it's important to note that it would never be used up that quickly because of our water supplies' diversity. Having more than one water source means the AMWUA municipalities have greater flexibility in managing their water systems and delivering water to you. In turn, this means a more robust economy for the Valley and a more sustainable way of life for all of us.
  • Conservation and efficiency
    Water conservation and efficiency are part of our cities' long-term management strategies, while Arizona residents have embraced it into their lifestyle. Although conservation by itself will not resolve water challenges, having it rooted in our daily actions does enable us to better weather drought and shortage. This behavior will be critical to our resiliency, just as it always has. The AMWUA cities collectively implement more than 300 best management practices and have implemented ordinances designed to reduce water use and increase water efficiency indoors and outdoors for residential and non-residential sectors. In addition to meeting Statewide mandates, all AMWUA cities regulate low-water-use landscaping, limit turf (grass), prohibit water waste, and have plumbing code requirements. These regulations have helped cities advance water conservation. The AMWUA cities have also built tailored water conservation programs that best assist their residents and businesses use water efficiently
  • Planning
    In addition to meeting the State's 100-year water supply requirements, AMWUA members invest in ongoing long-range planning, including extensive research to understand future water demand trends, growth patterns, supply availability, impacts of drought and climate change, and potential regulatory impacts. 
  • Drought plans
    Each city has a unique drought and shortage preparedness plan to address and manage various scenarios. The State has required Drought Preparedness Plans for well over a decade. These plans are uniquely written to ensure each city is best prepared based on its specific water resources, infrastructure, and customer needs. This level of planning ensures cities can effectively manage their water supplies despite any short-term or long-term challenges that may arise. A Colorado River shortage is just one of many scenarios the cities have planned for.


As our history has proven, today's actions can avert tomorrow's crisis.  We must continue to take proactive measures to prevent potential impacts of sustained drought, increasing temperatures, and potential shortages in surface water supplies.

Drought & Shortage

Arizona has been in a historic drought for over two decades.

Current Efforts

Governor's Drought Interagency Coordinating Group
To determine our drought status, the Interagency Coordinating Group (ICG), which includes experts on water, weather, climate, forests, and wildlife, collectively offers insight into recent weather events and analysis of the near-term weather future. The group meets twice a year to analyze Arizona's climate conditions and decide whether to recommend to the Governor that the ongoing drought declaration be continued or not. In addition to hearing reports from that group's membership, the interagency group considers precipitation levels' effect on short-term and long-term drought statuses

SRP Watershed Forest Management
The water in SRP's system starts as rain and snow in the forests of northern Arizona. SRP is working with scientists, government leaders, and researchers to better manage the forest to ensure the quality and sustainability of the water supply.

AMWUA Member Drought and Shortage Information Pages:

Other Agency Information
Arizona Water Facts: Do We Have Enough? (ADWR)
Arizona Drought Monitor (ADWR)
Drought in the Colorado River Basin (BOR)
Colorado River Shortage: Impacts on Arizona (CAP)
SRP's Drought FAQs


Drought & Shortage

Roosevelt Lake

Central Arizona’s water supply systems are built to manage extended periods of limited precipitation. The SRP reservoir system, which serves the Phoenix metro area, has a storage capacity of 2.3 million acre-feet. Credit: James Eastwood, SRP

What You Can Do


  • Our collective commitment to conservation increases our resiliency during extended periods of drought and in times of shortage. Being responsible with the water we have is up to each of us.
  • Learn more about what your community has done to prepare for drought and shortage and how you can assist. Stay informed of water supply and shortage conditions. 

  • Call on elected leaders to support policies, strategies, and investments to protect and shore up water supplies. Remind them that our economy won't function without secure, reliable supplies.


Each of the AMWUA communities has professional conservation staff dedicated to assisting their residents and businesses use water efficiently. Additionally, each municipality has created and invested in its own unique blend of water conservation programs and resources tailored to meet its customers' needs.