The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation declared a Tier I Colorado River water shortage, leaving many Peoria residents questioning what this means for their water supply.
The short answer, Peoria’s water supply is not impacted in these early stages.
As the drought continues and if the shortage levels on the Colorado River continue to worsen, the city has plans in place to ensure its residents aren’t affected.
“A shortage on the Colorado River doesn’t necessarily equal a shortage at your tap,” said Cape Powers, Peoria’s water services director.
“And from a Peoria perspective, our water rights or water allocation from the Central Arizona Project is such a seniority level, we will not see actual wet water decreased delivery decreases in Peoria. So we’re just not from a water resource perspective affected at a tier-one shortage level.”
While the declaration looks alarming for residents at first glance, only 34% of Peoria’s water supply is directly from the Colorado River and Central Arizona Project (CAP).
Additionally, the city uses 61% of the available CAP supply, and the rest is stored underground for later use. The city has stored more than 180,000 acre-feet of water underground.
The amount of water the city has banked for the community is approximately five years of Peoria’s total water demand.
Powers assures residents that the city has been preparing for drought conditions for many years prior to the Bureau of Reclamation’s declaration.
“Part of our job is to worry about water. That’s kind of what we’re paid for, and we track this stuff very carefully and we follow it along. We take it into careful account when we’re planning future resources and how we’re going to supply water to our citizens. So when I say it’s not a surprise, it’s because we’ve been doing our job and we’ve been tracking and following and keeping track of what’s going on,” he said.
Powers admitted the water shortage will affect the city financially but assured residents this has also been prepared for and the allocated funds have already been considered in the city’s budgets and rates.
In terms of water management, the city has made significant investments to safeguard the Peoria community from drought and shortage conditions.
Of course, with the recent declaration of a water shortage, Powers acknowledged the public’s concern but assured them that with the continued help from the city to conserve water, there is no need to worry.
“What we would like our citizens to do as far as a response to this goes, we would love for them to pay attention, to understand that there are concerns out there, but that we understand what those concerns are, and we put an awful lot of planning and effort into making sure that we’re able to continue to deliver water to their town,” he said.
Powers emphasized that Peoria residents can do their part by conserving water whenever possible.
“We have a saying that Peoria has enough water to use but never enough to waste. And so we encourage citizens to continue doing what they’re doing, which is participate in the educational programs we provide, we encourage them to take advantage of some of our rebate programs where we encourage them to eliminate lawns, use low water use fixtures, toilet, showerheads things like that, use native landscaping that helps reduce water usage,” he said.
With a focus on sustainability, smart growth and long-term planning, Peoria has created a diverse water portfolio that is safe and secure, according to the city’s sustainability and water conservation team.
To prepare for the drought, the city has completed various projects, including the Drought Management Plan, to address temporary supply reductions.
“The Drought Management Plan provides a predetermined methodology by which we would be able to reduce community water usage, should an actual wet water shortage occur,” Powers said. “We feel like we have a good game plan, but we also have a plan for the possibility of things getting worse in the future.”
Other preparation projects include the Greenway Water Treatment Plant to utilize the Salt River Project water assigned to lands within Peoria, two reclaimed water systems to reduce potable water demand, and building reclaimed water pipelines to reduce potable water use outdoors and to improve the connection between where water is stored underground and where it will be pumped back out in the future.
“It’s our job to prepare for this stuff and professionally worry about it, if you will. We look at all scenarios and all possibilities, and if you start digging into some of the technical data put out by the Bureau of Reclamation, there are certainly scenarios where this can get better and there’s also many scenarios where this can get worse on the Colorado River, and we plan for pretty much all those scenarios,” Powers said.
To ease the worries of Peoria residents, Powers and his team have adopted the slogan “Shortage on the Colorado River does not mean shortage at your tap.”
“It comes down to the fact that there’s some very competent professionals looking into this stuff and tracking it and following it. We’re involved at all levels or involved at a city level, we’re involved at a regional level, and we participate in professional organizations such as the Arizona Municipal Water (Users) Association so that we stay well informed, and not just informed but participate in solutions and activities that take place related to this,” he said.
Moving forward, despite the declaration of Tier 1 Colorado River water shortage, Powers said he hopes his team’s preparation assures residents that there is no need to fear about the city’s water supply.
“We’re all over it. And we do spend an awful lot of time planning and making sure that our systems are in place to make sure we can continue to deliver water despite what happens on the Colorado River. … We continue to do that, we will continue to react in a professional manner as conditions change and evolve,” Powers said.
To learn more about Peoria’s diverse water supply and how the city is prepared, visit the Drought and Shortage FAQ page at peoriaaz.gov/droughtready.