What is in this article?:
- Arizona's top water leader Sandy Fabritz-Whitney says the state is in a relatively good water position overall, but two studies point to water shortages for Arizona in the future.
Funding, creativity can minimize the water shortage.
Arizona’s top water leader is tired of the “bad press” coming from outside the state.
One media account claims Arizona is not only running out of water but no one should live or farm in the Grand Canyon State.
“It seems like everyone but us believes we’re running out of water,” says Sandy Fabritz-Whitney, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR).
“Arizona is actually in a very good water position (currently),” Fabritz-Whitney told farmer and rancher members of the Arizona Farm Bureau during the organization’s 92nd annual meeting held in Scottsdale, Ariz., in November.
During the 30-minute presentation, the state’s water chief discussed Arizona’s current water status, plus predicted a future water shortfall. She outlined ways to minimize the shortfall over the next century.
Fabritz-Whitney, a 20-year ADWR veteran, started at the department as an intern. She took the director’s reins three years ago from retiring director Herb Guenther.
Arizona water – the present
Fabritz-Whitney doled out kudos to leaders who have helped implement changes in water management and water development. The decisions helped put the state on track to its overall current positive water status.
“We have more than 8 million acre feet of water stored in aquifers in Central Arizona,” Fabritz-Whitney said. “This is above and beyond the existing 91 million acre feet of groundwater stored in aquifers.”
These water gains are especially significant given Arizona’s large population and economic growth over the last 50 years.
Using PowerPoint slides, Fabritz-Whitney showed that Arizona’s population increased about 500 percent (6.5 million today) and gross domestic income increased about 1,500 percent from 1957-2010. Surprisingly, the amount of statewide water use during that time basically remained about the same - about 7.5 million acre feet annually.
“We do more (water) conservation in this state than any other state in the U.S.,” Fabritz-Whitney said.
She credits the Salt River Project, the Colorado River Compact and Law of the River, the Central Arizona Project, and other water conservation efforts within the state’s five active management areas for besting water use efficiency.
Good water conservation, the Director says, is practiced among the state’s water users including agriculture, industry, and municipalities.
In agriculture, Fabritz-Whitney says about 40 percent of statewide agricultural water is under a mandatory conservation program. About 50 percent of the agricultural water users in Yuma County implement voluntary state-of-the-art water conservation and efficiency standards.
According to ADWR, about 74 percent of the available water for Arizona is used by agriculture; 5.1 million acre feet of water in 2011.
About 60 percent of statewide industrial water use and nearly 90 percent of municipal water use are under mandatory conservation programs.
The state’s recharge, recovery, and water-banking programs have made significant strides to save water.