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The Desert Southwest: Oasis or Mirage?

by Pete Zrioka, Arizona State University Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

The American West has a drinking problem. On farms and in cities, we are guzzling water at an alarming rate.

Scientists say that to live sustainably, we should use no more than 40 percent of the water from the Colorado River Basin. As it is now, we use 76 percent, nearly double the sustainable benchmark.

There are some safeguards in place against water scarcity. The reservoir Lakes Mead and Powell can provide approximately five years of average annual stream flow at full capacity for insurance against low rainfall years.

But John Sabo, an associate professor in Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, believes that 50 years in the future – rather than five – should be the planning mark for water usage.

David White, co-director of ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), says that Arizona water policy has done a good job of providing adequate supplies for the growth of the region up to this point. But environmental and demographic factors will likely require changes in that system. The DCDC uses research to inform environmental policy in times of uncertainty.

Read the entire article at ASU News.