Drought conditions continue to affect the western region of the United States with much of the southwest experiencing moderate to extreme levels of drought. Arizona has experienced drought conditions that have lasted more than 20 years as well as record low water levels in Lake Mead, a critical water resource for the state. Lake Mead is a part of the Colorado River which is the primary water supply for 40 million people with about 70 percent of its water going towards irrigation systems and sustaining the agricultural industry. As water levels in various parts of the Colorado River continue to decrease, federal officials have recently declared a water shortage.
This warrants cuts to water usage from Arizona’s share of the river to help prevent the water levels of both Lake Mead and Lake Powell from dropping low enough to threaten hydropower production and stop water from flowing through their dams. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had Arizona and six other western states plan to determine how to use at least 15 percent less water next year, or risk having federal restrictions imposed on them – the deadline has since come and gone. According to Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke, the state has taken on the burden of many water usage cuts throughout the past few years. Since Arizona is experiencing a rapidly growing population and has a massive agricultural industry, it does not have the same luxury as the other six states to take on additional cuts.
Those who are most likely to be affected by these cuts are Arizona farmers. Arizona farmers have been significantly impacted by the ongoing, severe drought conditions already, and the potential for even more water usage cuts can make the situation more difficult for them in which they would require compensation. In the meantime, some farmers are attempting to switch to less water-intensive crops in an effort to preempt the cuts to their water supply, but others have been forced to leave farming entirely.