Is the Light at the End of the Tunnel with Arizona’s Drought?

Photo Credit: Phoenix New Times

Not just around the country, but around the world people often have a singular first thought that pops into their mind when they are asked about Arizona: it’s a desert, it’s dry, it’s hot, or something of the sort. Water has always been a significant question mark, but that has intensified in recent years as water levels at our biggest sources of water have been at critically low levels.

In what has seemed to be a perennial string of bad stories about a worsening situation, it seems as though we have finally gotten some good news. Water flow from the Colorado River after a heavy snow season in the Rockies has meant that the water levels at Lake Powell have rebounded very significantly this year. Finally a reversal to the consistent dropping of the water levels from Powell and Lake Mead.

According to officials, Lake Powell’s water level is about 50 feet higher than last year, and Lake Mead’s about 22 feet higher. Obviously one data point, or one year in this case, does not make a trend. Moreover, both are only about 26% full as of now, so the long cycle of drought is certainly not officially over and the future of Arizona (and much of the southwest) is not out of the woods yet.

Predicting the weather a week out is difficult enough in most places other than the Valley (I think we can go out on a limb and say that it will probably be sunny and warm next week), but attempting to predict with high confidence if this high snowfall season will repeat in subsequent years is of course nearly impossible. It can be considered a brief alleviation to the worst case scenarios of drought plans across the state, but municipalities can’t reasonably spike the football in the assumption that all is well.

As Arizona continues to be one of the most in-demand places for people to move to, even one year of reversing drought is extremely welcome. But we can’t for a moment assume that everything is alright, that our already strained resources can withstand the massive recent influx.

While Arizona is a great place to live and we don’t want to discourage people fleeing oppressive taxation on the left coast or oppressive snowfall from the north, it would behoove our state to consider alternative water sources, perhaps including technology such as desalination techniques, to think even more strategically and long-term. If this one year is an aberration and the drought continues, an attempted exodus of millions from one state is not an ideal option for anyone involved.