Lake Powell at the Glen Canyon Dam wall as the lake was at historic lows. (Photo by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)
Here’s what the City of Phoenix Stage 1 Water Alert means
Due to the shortage of water on the Colorado River caused by overallocation, prolonged drought, and climate change, the City of Phoenix has declared a Stage 1 Water Alert and activated its Drought Management Plan. City of Phoenix Water Services Department Director Troy Hayes made the announcement during a City Council subcommittee presentation on Wednesday, June 1.
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The City is taking this action to address the mandatory reduction of Colorado River water and deeper cuts that are likely to occur in the future. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has been working with the seven Colorado River Basin states to manage the changing conditions. However, the levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead continue to fall precipitously, and the projections show conditions will worsen significantly.
A Stage 1 Water Alert occurs when an insufficient supply of water appears likely due to water system or supply limitations. As a result of the declaration, the City will begin an intensive public education and information program to assist all customers in understanding the state of the emergency and the need for voluntary conservation.
During the early stages of stressed water supplies, the City will ask customers to voluntarily reduce their water use in ways that will have minimal impact on their lifestyles. Since most of our water use is outdoors, watering landscape correctly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to conserve water. Finding and fixing leaking faucets and toilets is the simplest way to reduce indoor water use. Voluntary reductions do not require enforcement, and the primary cost to the City will be associated with customer outreach and education. Any costs incurred by customers due to voluntary reductions will be at the customer’s discretion and may be offset by lower water bills.
“The situation on the Colorado River is unprecedented, and we are taking it very seriously,” said Mayor Kate Gallego. “Each of us is responsible for making simple changes to live more sustainably in the desert environment we call home. The City of Phoenix is committed to reducing water use in city operations and providing the tools residents and businesses need to use this precious resource efficiently.”
At a briefing on Friday, May 6, officials with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Arizona Department of Water Resources, and Central Arizona Project delivered a stark assessment of the Colorado River. Colorado River water supplies roughly 40% of the City’s water.
“As the drought intensifies, the City continues to innovate new, proactive actions to prepare for even deeper shortages on the Colorado River, which is over-allocated and in decline due to climate change,” said Phoenix Water Services Director Troy Hayes. “The City is prepared to implement additional actions, including those described in our Drought Management Plan.”
The City has worked hard to develop a sustainable water supply and has been designated by the State as having a 100-year assured water supply. In addition, Phoenix recycles nearly all its wastewater, delivering it for use in agriculture, energy production, urban irrigation, aquifer recharge, and riparian wetland maintenance.
“Our customers have always been our partners in conservation, and we need that more than ever now,” said City of Phoenix Water Resources Management Advisor Cynthia Campbell. “We want them to understand what it means to live in a desert and how to use water as efficiently as possible.”
Phoenix will continue to plan, invest and conserve to ensure a sustainable future while providing safe, clean, and reliable water to its customers without interruption. Additionally, the City will continue to take proactive actions to prepare for even deeper shortages on the Colorado River as we strive to become the most sustainable desert city in the world.