Colorado River Shortage Creates Arizona Water Crisis

While Arizona’s most populated areas have closely managed groundwater for decades, 80% of the state has no laws protecting how much is taken from the ground. In places like Cochise County, unregulated large-scale irrigation by corporate farms is already causing a crisis as household wells run dry.

“People really need to understand groundwater is a finite resource,” said Kathleen Ferris, a researcher and former policymaker who spent 45 years developing groundwater legislation in Arizona. “If you keep depleting it, it will not be there when you need it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

The Colorado River is Arizona’s largest renewable water source, providing 36% of its supply each year. Most of this — 70% — is used for agriculture. For centuries, farmers in the Southwest have used river water to irrigate crops. But hotter temperatures, less predictable snowpack, and lower soil moisture are depleting the Colorado at an alarming rate. From 2000 to 2019, its flow was 18% less than the previous century’s average, and studies show its decline could reach 35% to 50% by the end of this century.

Source: Colorado River Shortage Creates Arizona Water Crisis