Arizona’s legacy of carefully managing its water supplies over the years isn’t so much about preparing for drought. Not precisely.
More than anything, it has been about Arizonans taking control of their own destiny.
The years devoted to planning and investing from the creation of engineering water-delivery marvels like the Salt River Project, irrigation projects in the Yuma area , and the Central Arizona Project, to the development of a remarkably successful storage system known as “water banking.” These big examples – can be viewed primarily as creating a state of readiness. Of asserting a measure of control.
We live in an arid climate. We have known that drought would come. And we knew maintaining a thriving economy in a time of water scarcity would require marshalling our water supplies not just over years, but over decades.
And so that’s what we did.
Even at this point in the current, lengthy drought 16 years into the Southwest’s most persistent dry period in a millennium -- the state’s water managers at the Arizona Department of Water Resources can assert with confidence that preparations are paying off.
Since 1996, Arizona has stored approximately nine million acre-feet of water underground, representing an amount five times greater than the state’s entire annual delivery of Colorado River water through the Central Arizona Project canal system.
Thanks in large part to careful water-conservation measures, water consumption in Arizona today is no greater than it was in the mid-1950s, when the state held a fraction of the current population.
To be sure, Arizona faces plenty of challenges going forward in protecting its current water supplies and developing new ones. According to commission empaneled by the state Legislature in 2011, water demand is expected to grow by one million acre feet per year within the next 25 to 50 years and by up to three million acre-feet in the next 100 years.
Addressing great challenges such as drought and population growth require a sound and accurate understanding of the facts on the ground (and, in the case of our region’s aquifers, under the ground, as well).
That is why the Arizona Department of Water Resources has developed “Arizona Water Facts,” a straightforward compilation of the most up-to-date information about the state’s water supplies that the best water analysts in the Southwest can provide.