On a daily basis, Arizona's finite, limited supply of water is being stretched between new, fast accumulating demands. With a population projected to double by 2030, this is not likely to get better anytime soon.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona could face a potential water supply crisis by 2025, meaning that existing water supplies may not be adequate to meet demands for people, farms, or the environment.
Fortunately, the path toward crisis is not inevitable.
There are solutions to address these problems. In order to conserve our water, we must not consume more water than our renewable supply.
We can start by focusing growth where there is a sustainable, long-term amount of water and by monitoring and planning for our current and future use.
In order to preserve and protect our rivers for generations to come, we must control the amount of water removed from rivers and not draw water beyond what the river needs to remain healthy.
We must use local groundwater supplies in a sustainable manner to protect the environment and local economies. When groundwater is transferred from one part of the state to another, that water is no longer available to the communities and ecosystems where it originated. For that reason, Arizona should maintain the bar on inter-basin transfers codified in the 1991 Groundwater Transportation Act.
For local, intra-basin transfers, we need policies that encourage efficiency and temporary leasing, while preventing harm to ecosystems and communities.
We must ensure all sectors of our economy use water wisely, not wastefully, to obtain the most value from this precious resource. In order to accomplish this, statewide water efficiency standards should be set for urban, agriculture, and energy sources.
Pollution is exacerbating our water quantity problems by rendering countless gallons unsafe for use. We must reduce and prevent water pollution as a key strategy for addressing the scarcity of this resource. Wastewater treatment plants should increase our usable water supply and salinity output should be minimized.
By addressing these problems with the above policy solutions, Arizona can ensure that it will have water to prosper, now and in the future. We urge Arizona decision makers and candidates for office to support these measures.
Diane E. Brown, Director, Arizona Public Interest Research Group