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As Drought Continues, Arizona Prepares For Water Cuts In 2022

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 2:12pm

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The Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project expect to hit a “Tier 1" shortage in their drought contingency plan in 2022. It would be the first time reservoirs ever dipped low enough to trigger substantial cuts to Arizona’s share of Colorado River water.

Decades of dry conditions have left Lake Mead 38% full and Lake Powell just 35% full. Levels are projected to drop even lower by the end of 2021. 

Under the Drought Contingency Plan, central Arizona agricultural users would face the largest cuts. Their water supply could be reduced 65%. 

“It’s a painful reduction, but fortunately, because of mitigation, it’s not going to be a full reduction right away going into 2022," CAP general manager Ted Cooke said in a Thursday briefing. Cooke said groundwater or redistribution of some cities' water supplies could help partially offset agricultural cuts. 

The agencies say city and tribal water supplies would not be impacted by cuts in the first tier of the plan. 

“You’re not going to see a request for people in their homes to only shower twice a week. We’re not in that situation, this is not a crisis at that level,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. 

The agencies say they’ve been preparing for years for these measures. Without prior conservation efforts, they say cuts might have been triggered even sooner.

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