On March 31, California put strict landscape watering restrictions in place to deal with water shortages in current drought conditions. Next door, in similar drought conditions, Arizona’s water supply remains good, and there isn’t even a 50/50 chance for a “water shortage declaration” until 2017.
What explains this?
How can two states with similarly arid/semi-arid climates and shared drought conditions have such vast differences in current water supplies?
According to AZ authorities, it comes down to planning ahead.
On March 18, Arizona Public Media reported that drought conditions continue in AZ, and the Colorado River is dwindling and expected “to keep dwindling, along with the aquifer it feeds.” Yet because AZ prepared for this, they have “more than a year’s worth” of water stored underground.
Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke said: “We have stored a lot of water underground, so for a point in time when we see shortages, we’ve got over three million acre-feet of water,” which is more than a year’s supply.
Buschatzke said AZ also lessened the strain on water supplies by putting “mandatory…conservation requirements in place” for “metropolitan parts of Arizona” when it was apparent drought conditions were approaching.
He said these choices put Arizona “in one of the better places you can be in right now in the western United States.”
Besides differing conservation approaches, the Arizona Republic previously reported that the differences in water supplies are based on infrastructure preparedness as well. To this point–AZ reservoirs are built to catch and store multiple years of runoff, while CA’s reservoirs are not.
Under Governor Jerry Brown (D), CA’s infrastructure focus appears to be centered on things like high speed rails instead of water supplies.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.