Experts stress water conservation as the Colorado River sees historically low levels

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: May. 2, 2022 at 6:48 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The heat is on and that means that water use is up. But, historically low levels at the Colorado River, Arizona’s largest supply of water, are concerning as we head into the heat of the summer.

“Things are getting to levels where by, the probabilities are looking like, in the next year or two or maybe two or three years, we could see shortages to Arizona,” Sharon Megdal, director of the University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center says we are in uncharted territory when it comes to the water supply.

Climate change is a big factor in what’s happening to the Colorado River.

“Climate has not been cooperating with us in the Colorado river basin. It’s serious, it’s really serious,” she said.

The flows are below average, temperatures are increasing, and precipitation patterns are changing.

The effect is so serious it could impact one of the lowest cost power sources for our region: hydropower generation.

“The current hydropower generation levels, like in the dam, is operating about 1/3 of it’s capacity , however, the bigger concern for me as a water manager is that such low elevation lessen a dam’s ability to release water downstream is also impacted,” said Vineetha Kartha, Central Arizona Project’s Colorado River Program Manager.

If levels continue to decline, both water and power supplies could face uncertainties.

″As of this week, Powell is at 24% capacity and Lake Mead is at 31% of it’s capacity. The lower basin is already operating in a shortage condition for 2022,” she said.

Tucson Water says this is why water conservation is more important than ever especially when it comes to a major waster inside your home.

“Toilets are the biggest water waster inside households. So, make sure the toilet isn’t constantly running and that it’s flushing thoroughly,” said Candice Rupprecht, Tucson Water’s Water Conservation Program Manager.

Tucson Water recommends doing a dye tablet test. This will help detect leaks that are leading to more water use.

They also have advice for conserving water outside of your home.

”We always encourage people, especially this time of year to check their irrigation system. Summer is a time when we all need to put a little more water in our landscape. So, it’s important that we are running our irrigation systems at the appropriate times and not watering places that don’t have plants,” she said.

To avoid water waste, Tucson Water says you should also check your system for leaks and any broken pieces.

Tucson Water also just released their seasonal watering guidelines for the summer so you can water your yard and plants at the most effective times without wasting water. You can find that guide here.

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