I have been hesitant to pass along recent stories about water. Some examples, "Arizona Cities Could Face Cutbacks in Water From Colorado River," from the New York Times; "Phoenix May Not Survive Climate Change" on Salon; "America is Running Out of Water," from Vice; "Arizona May Be California's Future" on Slate, and this Tucson Weekly examination of the situation in the Old Pueblo.
Oh, and from Smithsonian (!): "Arizona Could Be Out of Water in Six Years."
Water in Arizona is a highly complex issue. It risks being spun as "everything's fine!" by the boosters, lied about by real-estate hustlers and their stooges, or oversimplified as "Phoenix is about to run out of water!" by outside observers. So let me tiptoe in with a reminder of this Phoenix 101 primer, and then...
Some things we know:
1. As with so much else, Arizona is not Phoenix. Even the farthest-flung reaches of the metropolitan area are not the old city. In other words, each part of the state has distinct water issues.
2. Phoenix is not Death Valley with subdivisions. In fact, the Salt River Valley, sitting in and near the confluence of multiple rivers, is the most abundantly watered place in the Southwest. The Sonoran Desert is the planet's wettest desert. This is why the Phoenix area has attracted irrigation civilizations going back perhaps 3,000 years. Phoenix is a natural oasis.
3. Thanks to this and the billions of federal dollars spent on reclamation projects in the first half of the 20th century, the core of Phoenix is blessed with nearby renewable water supplies. The dams and lakes of the Salt River Project delivered 767,445 acre feet to the project's footprint in 2012 and held nearly 1.5 million acre feet in the reservoirs in fiscal 2013. This water comes from snowmelt in the east-central Arizona mountains.