Colorado River Updates

Arizona Water Company operates 24 water systems across Arizona. These systems range in size from eight connections to over 30,000 connections. Our water supplies include groundwater, Colorado River water (i.e. Central Arizona Project or CAP), and effluent. Each system utilizes one or more of these supplies and impacts due to drought or shortage affect each system differently.

What was the recent announcement regarding the Colorado River?

On August 15th, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released the Colorado River Basin August 2023 24-Month Study, which determines the tiers for the coordinated operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead for 2024. Lake Mead will operate in a Tier 1 Shortage Condition – an improvement from the Tier 2a Shortage Condition announced last year – with required shortages by Arizona and Nevada. Arizona’s Colorado River apportionment in 2024 under the Tier 1 condition will be reduced by 512,000 acre-feet, from the 2.8 million acre-feet allotment to Arizona. None of Arizona Water Company’s Colorado River supplies delivered through the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal will be impacted by the Tier 1 shortage condition in 2024.

“The above-average precipitation this year was a welcome relief, and coupled with our hard work for system conservation, we have the time to focus on the long-term sustainability solutions needed in the Colorado River Basin. However, Lake Powell and Lake Mead – the two largest reservoirs in the United States and the two largest storage units in the Colorado River system – remain at historically low levels,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton.

Who will be impacted by this shortage declaration?

This shortage declaration is expected to affect deliveries of CAP water in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties, primarily to agricultural water users. Water providers who deliver potable (drinkable) CAP water to residents and businesses in these counties may see very small reductions in 2024. However, most water providers have multiple sources of water to rely on that can offset any reductions in CAP water deliveries. The conditions on the Colorado River System in 2024 have improved compared to 2023 due in part to above average precipitation and conservation efforts, therefore the impact on deliveries is not as severe.

How does this shortage declaration affect Arizona Water Company customers?

Potable water deliveries to Arizona Water Company customers are not expected to be affected at this time. Arizona Water Company’s primary source of water is groundwater pumped from wells. Arizona Water Company does have multiple contracts to use CAP water which are used to offset our groundwater pumping for most of our water systems located within Maricopa and Pinal counties.

What else is happening related to the Colorado River?

In addition to the Tier 1 reductions, a consensus-based proposal – agreed upon by the three Lower Basin states earlier this year – commits to measures to conserve at least 3 million-acre-feet of system water through the end of 2026, with a target of 1.5 million acre-feet of conservation by the end of 2024.

What is causing the shortage on the Colorado River?

The Colorado River Basin has been in a prolonged drought. Overall, we are experiencing the driest conditions in the basin in more than 1,200 years. Despite the above-average precipitation over the winter of 2023, the system remains in shortage conditions. The recent above-average precipitation provided welcome short-term improvement but Lake Powell and Lake Mead remain at historically low levels.

Should I conserve water?

Water conservation is an important way to help preserve all of our water resources. In fact, as a state, Arizona uses about as much water today and we did in 1957. This is partially due to conservation efforts throughout the state. We are proud of the efforts of our residents and businesses to conserve water, and we encourage everyone throughout the state to use water wisely. More information on water conservation and water-saving tips can be found at:

Where can I find more information about the shortage?

The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) and CAP have information on their webpages.

If you have additional questions, please email AWC at: [email protected] Please provide your name and telephone number so we can respond by telephone if needed.