In June 2021, O’odham Action News explored how the current megadrought might affect the future of water in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
At that time, the Lower Colorado River Basin was anticipating the first-ever Tier 1 shortage declaration in 2022, which substantially cut Arizona’s share of the river’s water.
On August 16, in response to the worsening drought crisis, the Interior Department announced actions to protect the long-term sustainability of the Colorado River system, which they said includes commitments for continued engagement with impacted states and tribes.
The actions particularly focused on a reduction in water being distributed to Mexico, Nevada and Arizona, with Arizona slated to lose 592,000 acre-feet in 2023, 21% of its annual allotment.
This comes after the Bureau of Reclamation released the Colorado River Basin August 2022 24-month study, which sets the annual operations for Lake Mead and Lake Powell in 2023.
“Reclamation remains fully committed to working in a consensus manner across the upper and lower [Colorado River] basins, with tribes, and with the country of Mexico. I am confident that, by working together, we can achieve meaningful change toward a sustainable future for the river that serves as the lifeblood of the American West,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton.
Michael Byrd, assistant public works director for utilities and roads at SRPMIC, said that the Community’s water usage and supply have not changed in the past year.
“At least until the end of this century, CAP (Central Arizona Project) shortages should not directly affect the Community’s water supply,” said Byrd. “Other SRPMIC water rights are sufficient to serve the needs of the Community. We expect this to continue to be the case in the future with careful monitoring, increased farming efficiencies and smart conservation efforts.”
In upcoming issues, O’odham Action News will explore how the drought and the situation surrounding low water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell are affecting other tribal communities.