The University of Arizona

A Colorado River Shortage Declaration: Planning, Responses, and Consequences | CLIMAS

A Colorado River Shortage Declaration: Planning, Responses, and Consequences

A Colorado River Shortage Declaration: Planning, Responses, and Consequences

CLIMAS Lead:  

Based on interstate and international agreements, a Colorado River shortage declaration would reduce surface water deliveries to Lower Basin stakeholders. Most of these reductions would be in central Arizona, with nearly all the cuts applied to agriculture. This cut represents a 25%-40% reduction of surface water supplies to central Arizona agriculture and would generate a substantial production shock to the state’s agricultural economy. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) makes periodic forecasts of the probability of a shortage declaration based on Lake Mead water levels, and recent forecasts place the probability of a shortage at about 50% or more for 2018 and later years. Little is known about whether early warning systems are meeting farmers’ needs, how farmers use information, and what a shortage would mean for income, jobs, and groundwater use in rural economies. The study will assess how water-using stakeholder groups currently use Colorado River supply forecasts in decision-making and what contingencies they are making in the event of a shortage declaration, the economic consequences of a shortage declaration on agriculture and the local economies in central Arizona, and potential impacts of a shortage declaration on groundwater pumping and water levels in central ArizonaActive Management Areas (AMAs).

Central Questions: How well are current public and private information sources helping Arizona farmers prepare for a Colorado River shortage? What preparations are farmers and water suppliers currently making? How would a shortage declaration affect production, income and jobs?