Arizona and the Southwestern United States are facing perhaps their greatest challenge since the settlement of the region and development of modern cities, agriculture, and industry. Arizona’s “bank” for 40% of its water – Lake Mead on the Colorado River – is being drained faster than it can be filled. Projections show that if no action is taken to address the gap between supply and demand, Lake Mead could reach a critical stage within the next few years, triggering progressively larger, mandatory restrictions on Colorado River water use that could have a devastating impact on Arizona’s communities, agriculture, environment, and economy.
The time is now for Arizonans to take steps to respond to falling Lake Mead water levels, and enter a new phase of long-term collaboration, innovative water management, water conservation and efficiency, and water reuse. This requires a new look at how water cuts are implemented and how shortages can be avoided. In this report, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) presents an analysis of the problem and recommendations for a number of policies and actions directed at Arizona’s impending Colorado River water shortage over the next decade. These immediate actions and longer term plans will help address Lake Mead’s falling water levels in ways that can protect groundwater and still allow Arizona’s agriculture, cities, Indigenous tribes, economy, and environment to thrive in a future with less water.