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Shortages Looming For Colorado River Basin

National Park Service, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Newly released numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project a high chance of shortages on the Colorado River within the next two years. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The numbers show Lake Mead is likely to drop below 1075 (one thousand seventy-five) feet in elevation later this year. That triggers a “Tier 1” shortage under the rules of the Drought Contingency Plan.

Arizona takes the brunt of the shortage, losing more than five hundred thousand acre-feet of water, or about a third of the Central Arizona Project’s supply. The canal brings water to Tucson and Phoenix, but the cuts will largely affect farmers.

The Colorado River is currently in “Tier Zero” status, which requires Arizona to leave nearly two hundred-thousand-acre feet of water in Lake Mead.

A joint statement from the Central Arizona Project and Arizona Department of Water Resources says the state is prepared for the cuts, because “water users have been working collaboratively for many years to protect our Colorado River water supply.”

The river’s downward trend is expected to continue through the spring of 2023. 

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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