Paul's Note - May 6, 2022

This is from an Associated Press story from earlier this week: 

The body found inside a barrel on the newly exposed bottom of Lake Mead after the lake’s level was depleted amid drought is that of a man who was shot, police said Tuesday. 

The story brings up memories of reading about mafia wars in Las Vegas, maybe the movie Casino. The circumstances that made it happen have a lot to do with water policy here in Tucson. 

The lower water levels in Lake Mead are the topic of discussion at an important meeting being held in Phoenix today. 

The meeting is what’s called the Joint Colorado River Shortage Briefing, a regular meeting of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project. 

As you probably know, much of Tucson’s water supply is from the Central Arizona Project, which is pumped nearly 350 miles from the south end of Lake Havasu. In the last few years, water levels in the Colorado River (as measured at Lake Mead) have gotten low enough to declare a tier one shortage, which means that many users no longer have access to CAP water. 

The subject of the briefing is the very real possibility of a tier two shortage being announced as soon as next year.  

Frequent readers of my newsletter will remember that water levels at Lake Mead determine the allocation of Central Arizona Project water to various users. The level has fallen below Tier 1, or 1,075 feet, which took all CAP water away from a class called “excess users” (mostly agricultural and special water banks) as well as two-thirds of the allocation to agricultural users in Pinal County.  

The level for Tier 2 is 1,050 feet, which we are projected to hit as soon as next year. Tucson Water’s allocation will not be affected, however, there are steps that will be necessary. 

My colleagues and I got a letter from Tucson Water this week outlining some of these steps. They include outreach and educational programs to encourage conservation, audits and improvements of public facilities to cut down on water waste, engagement with residential water customers to get more use out of incentive programs and water audits of commercial customers. 

On the policy level, my colleagues and I need to make sure that the development code encourages low water use design including green stormwater infrastructure in residential development. We also need to look at metering policies for multi-family and condominium developments. We will also likely see fewer large developments on the fringes of the city. 

Most of us have been responsible with our water over the last thirty years. We don’t see lawns and fountains in our yards these days. The coming years may require even more tough decisions from policy makers and residents. 

This week marked the twelfth anniversary of my being your city councilperson. I was appointed to fill a vacancy on May 4, 2010. I’ve been gratified to have earned your support and I’m proud to serve you.