But it's a slow process. It has to be done mechanically, methodically. There is no way to capture the extra water from a violent rainstorm. Some might seep into the aquifers on its own, but the rest ends up down in Gila Bend, where farmers have first rights, or as far away as Mexico. (In fact, agriculture currently uses about 70 percent of the state's total water.)

And it takes a while to fill these aquifers, especially because we've been drawing from them for years. Arizona is in its 10th year of water banking and has saved 3 million acre-feet through the process, enough to supply CAP's system with water for just under two years.

All the future plans to augment Arizona's water supply come with caveats — they're controversial, they're slow, and, most of all, they're expensive.

Because no state is going to give up a portion of its allotment without a fight, and taking away Mexico's supply would require an international treaty, some high-tech augmentation methods have been proposed.

Water reuse has been the most popular solution so far. For one thing, we have the resources to do it. For another, using treated wastewater on landscaping and non-edible agriculture leaves more good water for people.

Still, at $1,700 an acre-foot, it isn't exactly a bargain.

Water here is cheap right now. If we want to keep it that way, we'd better conserve, says Herb Guenther, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

"The cheapest way to save water is to conserve," he says. "That's why conservation is important. It keeps water rates low."

If we don't conserve what we have, the only option in the future could be throwing millions of dollars into artificial augmentation.

That might be the best water-conservation sell.

No one really wants to turn off the water while lathering up in the shower, or play golf on a Xeriscaped course, so water lags a bit behind the rest of the green movement.

Melanie Ford, who works for the AZDWR as a drought planner, spending her time trying to persuade people to conserve water, has definitely noticed what a tough pitch it is.

"It's hard to get people to change their lifestyle. People don't want to take a shorter shower," she says. "It's easy to drive a Prius, but tearing out your grass that you love is a bigger change than just buying a new car. There's no immediate reward."

Correction (posted April 24, 2008): It should have been reported the Central Arizona Project gets 1.5 million acre-feet a year, and that one acre-foot can support two households for a year. Also, the article should have reported the number of gallons in an acre-foot as 325,851.

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Conservation in the Phoenix metro area means saving it for developers so they can keep on doing what they do. I use as much water as I care to, without much thought of conserving, for that reason.


This article is grossly inaccurate, and is oozing with negativity. The article's message inherently makes zero sense. The unfortunate issue, and frankly the only fact the author seemed to be on top of, is that of water politics in the West being the driver here. Drought or no drought, she got it right in saying use it or lose it. Hello, this applies to dams, prior appropriators, and water rights attached to land ownership, not to people living in a city of 5 million that can use as much water as they want.

All hope is lost if all Phoenicians think in this negative and "holding out till the big one" way. Get with it New Times.


Get it straight.... 1.0 acre foot = 325,851 gallons. An acre is 43,560 square feet. There are approx 7.48 gallons in a cubic foot, so to cover an acre of land with one foot of water is 7.4808 X 43,560 = 325,851 gallons. The avg US urban household uses .3 acre feet per year, or 97,755 gallons.


Your report is grossly inaccurate and without writing a comment as long as your article, I would like to point a few things out.1-golf courses in the valley ALL use reclaimed water to water with and fill there lakes. We need the golf courses to get rid of our treated (grade A) wastewater. 2- Fountain Hills uses reclaimed water as well.3- Do your research, and you'll find the rest of your inaccuracies.

Joe Sitarzewski
Joe Sitarzewski

The note: (To put things in perspective, an acre-foot is 235,851 gallons, and it takes 287,000 acre-feet to support two average Phoenix households for a year.) in your article is grossly inaccurrate. It may take 235,851 GALLONS to support two average Phoenix households for a year, but I rather doubt it would take 67,689,237,000 GALLONS (287,000 acre-feet) to support two average Phoenix households for a year, even though that may actually be closer than an 1/2 acre-foot per year estimate. Also, the reason Arizona will never change water law is because the Governor and Legislature are both owned by SRP and CAP. The 85% of the population in Phoenix and Tucson won't give up a single drop of water and they'll continue trying to figure out any way possible to steal it from rural Arizonans.

Omar Tentmaker
Omar Tentmaker

Here is approximately how water in the western U.S. is used: irrigation of crops,76%; power plants for cooling,13%; municipal,8%;,industrial,1%; and livestock,1%. Most of the water used for irrigation is for low value applications, especially hay. This water allocation arrangement got started early in the last century when almost the only folks who lived in the west were farmers. Today there is ample water in the west. The real issue is political: getting the water away from low value farming crops to higher value applications.

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