Arizona’s top water official says he never thought this day would come so soon.
Federal officials are warning that the West’s escalating water crisis could put some Arizona communities’ “health and safety” at risk, by cutting off their supply of drinking water.
“This is really getting to (be) a health and safety issue… the health and safety of those who want to turn on the tap and have water,” Tom Buschatzke, Arizona’s director of water resources, said in an interview on this weekend’s “Sunday Square Off.”
Arizona and other Western states have until Friday to respond to an emergency request to postpone their water deliveries from the Colorado River, in order to shore up a rapidly diminishing Lake Powell.
After decades of drought, 🌊water levels in #LakePowell, the second-largest humanmade reservoir in the #US, have shrunk to its lowest level since it was created more than 50 years ago.— ESA EarthObservation (@ESA_EO) April 11, 2022
📽️surface area changes of the reservoir (March 2018 and March 2022)
If Lake Powell’s levels continue to fall, the letter says, access to drinking water would be cut off for the 7,500 residents of Page, at the southwestern tip of the reservoir, and the neighboring Navajo community of LeChee.
“I never thought this day would come this quickly,” Buschatzke said. “But I think we always knew that this day was potentially out there. We’re going to have to learn to live with less water,” he said.
The goal is to keep water levels at Lake Powell high enough to support power generation at the lake’s Glen Canyon Dam and future water supplies to Lake Mead.
This animation shows the surface area changes of the reservoir near Bullfrog Marina, approximately 155 km north from Glen Canyon Dam (March 2018 and March 2022).— ESA EarthObservation (@ESA_EO) April 11, 2022
Dry conditions are unmistakable in the image captured on 18 March 2022😢 pic.twitter.com/YUjET0eEYt
The two reservoirs on the Colorado River provide 40 percent of Arizona’s water supply. But the lake levels have declined precipitously over the last 20 years, owing to a historic megadrought and the effects of human-caused climate change.
“Our task is to avoid the outcome in which the reservoirs are empty… and it’s getting more difficult,” said Buschatzke, who’s shepherded Arizona water resources for 40 years.
According to a report compiled by @USGS in cooperation with @usbr, #LakePowell’s storage capacity has lost nearly 7% of its potential storage capacity from 1963 to 2018, when the diversion tunnels of Glen Canyon Dam closed and the reservoir began to fill. pic.twitter.com/Dy4chfDXnu— ESA EarthObservation (@ESA_EO) April 11, 2022
Buschatzke did say the state would respond to the Interior Department’s request to delay water deliveries.