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Expert: AZ Among SW States in Worst Drought in 1,200 Years


Wednesday, February 22, 2023   

Despite Arizona and other Southwestern states experiencing a wetter winter, experts say the region is enduring the worst drought in 1,200 years.

Kevin Moran, associate vice president of regional affairs for the Environmental Defense Action Fund, said less water in the Colorado River Basin is both driven and accelerated by climate change.

Moran explained what is happening is called "aridification," when a region becomes increasingly dry over a long period of time, rather than through seasonal variations. He argued the word "drought" does not accurately describe the severity of the situation, as many people believe the water crisis could be fixed with more rainfall.

"The entire Colorado River Basin has to start engaging in new ways, and be willing to think about managing and using our water differently, to deal with that new reality," Moran contended. "We are in what I call a slow-motion disaster."

Moran added it is going to require all sectors and the entire region to embrace a unified water-conservation ethic, which means reducing personal water usage, removing water-intensive landscaping, and supporting local and state government proposals and policies to prioritize water conservation.

Moran noted places like Tucson, Las Vegas and Santa Fe are all setting good examples for other cities to implement smarter water-use policies. He thinks Arizonans and people across the Southwest also need to be what he calls "water security and resilience voters."

According to Moran, most of Arizona has no oversight of groundwater pumping; a situation he calls "destabilizing and disconcerting."

"Leaders in rural Arizona are asking the state to authorize new management tools and provide resources, so that rural communities can chart their water future," Moran emphasized. "We have to get to a better place. We have to give rural communities a better answer than 'the deepest straw wins.'"

He added it is important for all states that rely on the Colorado River to keep working with the federal government and Mexico to develop a conservation agreement to adapt to less water while also protecting ecosystems.

Moran commended the hard work already being done, and said it's a matter of continuing forward as quickly as possible.

Disclosure: The Environmental Defense Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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