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  • Writer's pictureMark L. Johnson

Dry and More Dry

This is our 4th Quarter 2020 Drought Update

The western US drought shows no signs of improving. A recent Cronkite News Drought Article reports that La Niña weather conditions (lower winter precipitation and higher winter temperatures) are predicted for this winter. The majority of Arizona is already in a Severe, Extreme or Exceptional Drought (see map below). La Niña weather conditions will only exacerbate the drought.

The Drought is so bad that Mohave County has has rightfully come to the realization that the drought is real and protecting its Colorado River water supply rights is paramount. Mohave County Supervisor's approved a Resolution opposing any future main stem Colorado River transfers to central Arizona. This was predicted in Know Your H2O Conclusions & Recommendations.

Even the water users are fessing up. A recent Safe Yield Article by the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) essentially admits that the Phoenix Active Management Area (PAMA) is in overdraft to the tune of 164,000 acre-feet per year and PAMA will not meet the 2025 safe yield goal, i.e. water out of the aquifer equals water into the aquifer. The article mentions that more discussions and planning are required to meet safe yield. Why not skip the talk and implement the Know Your H2O Conclusions &Recommendations.

Just asking! If the holders of Colorado River water entitlements are refusing to transfer Colorado River water to central Arizona, where is CAGRD going to get the water to meet their groundwater replenishment obligations to eliminate overdraft?

Arizona cannot continue its unprecedented growth without a bonafide water supply!


Tortolita Alliance (TA) attended the Local Drought Impact Group (LDIG) Meeting via Microsoft Team on November 10, 2020.

LDIG is a bi-monthly gathering of local and state water agencies to discuss latest drought conditions across the state of AZ. Attendees include: TA, Marana Water, Tucson Water, Metro Water, National Weather Service-Tucson, Central Arizona Project (CAP), Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), Pima County Office of Sustainability & Conservation (OSC) and more.

The following information was gleaned from the meeting:

  • Drought Conditions-short term and long term drought conditions have worsened throughout all parts of AZ. See map above and go to ADWR Drought Status Web-Page to get more details.

  • Annual Report-the LDIG Annual Report (Water Year Oct 2019-Sept 2020) was distributed and it includes some great weather/drought statistics and reports on various drought programs in Pima County. The 2020 wildfires are also discussed.

  • Colorado River System Forecast-Water Year 2020 (October 2019-September 2020) precipitation is about 70% below normal. Projected 3-month precipitation is below normal. La Nina conditions predicted for upcoming winter. Go to the Colorado River System Forecast Center for more details.

  • Colorado River System Reservoir Status-System Contents (amount of water in Lake Mead, Lake Powell and other smaller reservoirs) is at 47% as of 11/16/20. Go to USBR-Lower Colorado Region Website for the details. Lake Mead is at elevation 1,081.32 which is below elevation 1090' trigger for Tier Zero Restrictions of the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) in 2020. This means Arizona must cut 192,000 acre-feet of its annual 2.8 million acre-feet allocation. USBR predicts that Lake Mead will be in Tier Zero through 2022 but could drop to Tier 1 if drought conditions worsen. If Tier 1 is reached, Arizona will need to cut 512,000 acre-feet. See Know Your H2O Part VII-Colorado River.

  • Big Horn Fire-Pima County is monitoring vegetation regrowth and planning for stormwater impacts due to loss of vegetation. See aerial map of Bighorn Fire burn area below.

  • Tortolita Mountain Fires-see Tortolita Mountain Fires Aftermath.


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