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