U.S. Water News Online
PHOENIX -- While Arizona's big cities are weathering the
drought through multiple water sources, the rural areas are being
forced to drain lakes and tap depleted wells.
Flagstaff imposed mandatory conservation measures in May. The
community of Navajo Mountain shut down a boarding school in July when
water ran out, and Mayer barely kept its school open when a well
failed in August.
In Phoenix, the lack of rain has mostly meant more sunny days.
Although Phoenix has asked residents to voluntarily cut water
consumption by 5 percent, no city has enforced mandatory curbs, even
after Salt River Project cut its deliveries by one-third in January.
Plentiful water supplies have allowed one south Phoenix resort to
open a new water park and a recently opened north Phoenix resort to
finish work on 4 acres of ponds, fountains, pools and a fake river,
all of which will use up to 3 million gallons of water daily.
Phoenix has an ample supply of water because it gets some of its
water from the Colorado River, while most rural communities draw from
a limited number of lakes and wells, mostly on the same confined
watershed. A drought on that watershed saps the local supply, leaving
those communities with few options.
Phoenix and Tucson have developed multiple water sources drawing
from geographically diverse watersheds with enormous storage
reservoirs that can weather a few dry years. Lakes Powell and Mead
alone can store enough Colorado River water to serve Arizona,
California and Nevada for more than four years.
``The drought isn't nearly as bad as one would expect it to be
around here because of the dams,'' said Grady Gammage, a Phoenix
lawyer who serves on the board that oversees the Central Arizona
But the drought's effects in rural Arizona have stretched border
The Navajo Nation has been especially hard hit. Wells and basins
began to dry up in last spring, leaving sheep and cattle with no
water. Years of no rain and overgrazing stripped the land of food,
and by early summer, tribal officials encouraged livestock owners to
sell their animals or move them off the reservation.
Williams and Flagstaff both began watching surface water sources
anxiously early last year, aware that with little or no runoff on the
way, supplies would be stretched thin. They were. Flagstaff asked
residents to conserve and then, when use actually rose, made the
City officials are reviewing the drought policy and considering
potentially tougher limits for this year if the drought persists.
Farmers and ranchers from Seligman to Safford found themselves
forced to give up grazing lands early in the summer. When faced with
the choice of buying feed for the cattle or selling the animals at a
loss, most went to auction.
The Tohono O'odham Nation declared a drought emergency in May
after livestock began dying from lack of food and water. Many tribal
members lost nearly everything they owned.
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.