No, Arizona Will Not be "Out of Water in Six Years," No Matter What the Smithsonian Says

Categories: Environment

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Our December article about the exaggerations concerning Arizona's water supply wasn't read by everyone, it seems.

"Arizona Could Be Out of Water in Six Years," screams a recent headline from the esteemed Smithsonian Institution's web site.

Yes, that's total nonsense.

See also:
-Apocalypse No: Claims That Metro Phoenix Is Doomed Because of Climate Change Are Greatly Exaggerated
-Desalination or Bust: Arizona Needs New Water Source for Expected Hordes of Newcomers

The article's Toronto-based writer, Colin Schultz, doesn't even begin to back up his headline's claim in his article. He merely quotes from a recent New York Times article about Lake Mead that states, "If upstream states continue to be unable to make up the shortage, Lake Mead, whose surface is now about 1,085 feet above sea level, will drop to 1,000 feet by 2020. Under present conditions, that would cut off most of Las Vegas's water supply and much of Arizona's."

Even in the worst-case scenario described here, Arizona could not be "out of water in six years."

Kathleen Ferris, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, penned an op-ed on azcentral.com over weekend asking readers to look at the "big picture" when it comes to stories about drought and dropping water levels in Lake Mead, which feeds the Central Arizona Project canal. Her well-researched article states: "If the lake level drops below 1,000 feet (a projected 13 to 29 percent likelihood between 2015 and 2026)... no water might be left for the Central Arizona Project."

Yet Phoenix and central Arizona cities will not "dry up and blow away." Nor will they have their water deliveries cut, Ferris asserts.

Instead, the state will tap 1.7 million acre-fee of unused surface water to get it through those bone-dry years, should they come.

As our December article related, Arizona's fairly diverse water supply means we'll be in better shape than most Southwest states to withstand ongoing drought. The biggest problem for Arizona isn't a lack of water -- it's that our relatively decent water supply, in 30-50 years, isn't expected to meet the needs of millions of new residents.

We emailed Schultz, but haven't yet heard back. His short article contains more silliness, stating, "That people have not been fleeing Arizona in droves, as they did from the plains during the 1930s Dust Bowl, is a miracle of hydrological engineering."

In fact, people have fled Arizona in droves -- they're Schultz's fellow Toronto-ites, now that it's summer. But they'll be back in a few months. Even after six years.

UPDATE: Colin Schultz got back to us -- and doubled-down on his factually incorrect headline. Here's an excerpt from his cordial, self-serving email: "The headline was intended to be a pithy simplification of the main idea of the story--that without important changes taking place to the Colorado River hydrological system, Arizona could be facing serious water shortages in the near future. The headline and the opening paragraphs of the story were laying out the worst case scenario."

Okay... Except that Arizona being "out of water" in six years isn't the worst-case scenario, it's make-believe.

Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Ray Stern on Twitter at @RayStern.

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23 comments
mrh557
mrh557

It's Smithsonian Institution not Institute.

Matt Johnson
Matt Johnson

We still should mandate desert landscaping and water usage limits.

Matt Johnson
Matt Johnson

We have more tricks up our sleeves than the Hohokam did.

Matt Johnson
Matt Johnson

The climate is changing. That's a scientific fact. However Arizona has all the water it needs. It's underground flowing from the Navajo nation to Yuma. We will be fine.

Gary O'Brien
Gary O'Brien

Mr. Stearn misses the possibility this drought may be lengthy, as has happened in past centuries. The Hohokam disappeared for a reason, so will our current 'civilization'.

Jon Ballard
Jon Ballard

phx eats up all the water in our state. you need to embrace your desert plant dirt and rocks . pull up the grass and non native trees .

John P. Twigg
John P. Twigg

You are doing a disservice by saying water is not finite. The way people WASTE water here, they will never get it through their thick skulls. They deny climate change and water scarcity. CONSERVE people conserve!

Nansi Ross
Nansi Ross

Random factoid: if you are from Toronto you are a Torontonian.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz

Either way it's just incredible that places like Denver implement laws for water conservation like incentivizing xeriscaped lawns and we don't. We need initiatives to encourage water conservation as well as solar power no matter what.

Shasta Faye
Shasta Faye

Hahahahahahahaha yes!!! María Lilibeth Alvarado

Kenny Benally
Kenny Benally

LMAO! This is hilarious. We are NOT running out of water.

Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges

Climate change denying had absolutely nothing to do with that Smithsonian article being a crock of shit.

Todd Leith
Todd Leith

You guys are usually spot on; but, of late.. i've noticed you've turned a bit idiotic. Tell me, what has the tate of AZ done to deal with this issue?

Jeannette Passaretti
Jeannette Passaretti

Oh how the climate change deniers will love you! Good work presenting the "but" part of this story. Not! Seriously, New Times? Seriously??

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