1075 is a CLIMAS podcast series that explores what a shortage declaration on the Colorado River would mean to those living in the Southwest. 1075 refers to the elevation of Lake Mead – in feet above sea level – that serves as the trigger for shared shortage restrictions. After years of drought and ever-increasing demands on the river, the latest projections from the Bureau of Reclamation suggest the lake could drop below 1075 sometime in 2015. Water availability and potential shortages are a persistent concern for the Southwest, and careful management and creative conservation efforts are a requisite part of a sustainable water use plan for the region. We knew this was a relevant issue when we planned and recorded the series, but we didn’t anticipate the media frenzy that led to sensationalistic media coverage of Lake Mead levels in particular, and of water issues in the West more generally.
The media attention reinforced our goal of demystifying the rules and regulations that govern water use on the Colorado River, discussing what it means to the people and sectors across Arizona when a shortage occurs, and exploring the opportunities and consequences of a shortage to construct a nuanced view of a complex issue. The negative side—the specter of water shortage—is what receives the most attention. But, perhaps a shortage will spur innovation and lead to better conservation that saves money. At the most fundamental level, we wanted to know if Lake Mead falling below 1075 would be looked back upon as a moment in history that “changed everything” or if this seemingly inevitable moment would feel a lot like the Y2K craze.
We turned to regional water experts to help us understand Southwest water supply issues, the Central Arizona Project, realities of water management, opportunities for conservation, and details on what will actually happen if—and more likely when—a shortage declaration is made in the next few years.
- Episode 1: Management of the Colorado River: Zack Guido and Ryan Thomas interview Doug Kenney of the University of Colorado Law School about the management and history of the Colorado River, who uses the water, and what a potential shortage could mean for the system. It provides a detailed overview of Colorado River management issues and is an excellent foundation for subsequent episodes.
- Episode 2: Stressors on the River: Zack talks with University of Arizona researchers Bonnie Colby, George Frisvold, and Kiyomi Morino to discuss specific stressors (such as agricultural or municipal use) on the Colorado River Basin, how these stressors may change over time, and how these changes may affect management and behaviors across the Southwest.
- Episode 3: Shortage Impacts on the Central Arizona Project: Zack and Ryan are joined by Mohammed Mahmoud of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) to talk about the role that CAP plays in delivering Colorado River water throughout Arizona, as well as implications for the CAP system if a shortage declaration is made.
- Episode 4: The Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District: Zack interviews Dennis Rule of the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD) to get into details about the CAGRD in the management of Arizona groundwater and potential impacts on the system from continued drought in the Colorado River Basin.
- Episode 5: Tucson Water and Municipal Water Issues: Zack talks with Alan Forrest, the director of Tucson Water, about strategies that Tucson implemented to deal with potential water shortages, the conservation and recapture efforts of municipalities in Southern Arizona, and the practical realities of providing municipal water to an growing population in the Southwest.