Water shortages mean higher prices for customers

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 9:18 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - After the Bureau of Reclamation announced Arizona was being hit with a 21% cut in Colorado River water, the question around “How will that affect the cost of water in Tucson?”

The short answer is “not much in the short term.”

Customers will continue to see 5% or 6% hikes annually to cover the increase in operating costs but the big one is still a few years out.

“This isn’t a matter of increasing costs because we want to,” said Steve Kozachik, Ward 6 City Council member. “This is a matter of increasing costs because the commodity is running out.”

Lake Mead, which supplies Tucson with its CAP water is only 25% capacity, much lower that was anticipated just three years ago.

“If you look at the projections for the end of 2023, they do not look good,” said Sharon Megdal, the Director of Water Research at the University of Arizona. “The river system is in poor health, we’re in a crisis of low flows.”

Tucson has been banking about a third of its Colorado River and has five to six years banked to be used later if need be.

In the meantime, the city has begun another conservation project called One Water 2100 Master Plan.

“One Water is a new approach that treats all water sources from storm water, rainwater, greywater, recycled water and surface water as equally valuable,” said Regina Romero is a taped message to a town hall on water.

Still, Tucson is aware that changes need to be made to insure the water future.

“Number one is lifestyle changes and how we are allowing people to use water,” Kozachik said. “And number two, the price we pay at the tap, both of those have to see significant changes.”

But getting someone to say how much those increases might be in the future is difficult. No one has a crystal ball but it’s easy to see those increases could be significant.

“The reality is simply you can’t absorb a 30 per cent increase in CAP water year over year and not have any impact on the cost we charge customers at the tap,” Kozachik said.

Tucson receives about 144,000 acre feet of water annually from the Central Arizona Project and pays about $200 an acre foot. It estimates the cost will go up to $250 per acre foot next year. On the futures market that could command $350 per acre foot.

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