In 1898, a nameless visitor to the Valley described Arizona as, “…a land where a good spring is far better than a gold mine.” He was completely right.

The Arizona rivers, springs, and underground water wells have allowed great cities to bloom in the middle of a harsh, sun-beaten desert. However, over the last few decades, those water sources have been rapidly disappearing. Now, recent research shows that Arizona citizens are facing serious water shortages and a significant decrease in water access in the immediate future.

Underground Wells and Disappearing Rivers

Writing for AZ Central, Allison Steinbach brought attention to groundbreaking research was done by Laura Condon and Reed Maxwell, two hydrology experts working at the University of Arizona. Condon and Maxwell’s study has found a significant link between groundwater pumping and the drying up of the above groundwater sources. In short, the study finds that one of the reasons our rivers have been drying can be traced to the massive water that is retrieved from underground wells.

This study might be very useful in describing the reason why the rivers in Arizona have been drying out a very rapid rate. AZ Central quotes Robert Silver, co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity, as he names the unfortunately long list of Southwest rivers that have become functionally dead as water sources in recent years.

“Say we’re driving from Texas and just go through these rivers: Rio Grande is dead, and then you start moving into Arizona. The Gila, dead. Santa Cruz, dead. Salt, dead.” – Robert Silver

Silver points to the San Pedro and Verde River as the two most important freshwater sources in Arizona after the Colorado River. Unfortunately, even these two rivers face significant challenges in the immediate future. AZ Central case studies report that San Pedro has seen a 70% decrease in its base flow since 1940. The same study found that the Verde River, which relies on groundwater to flow all year, has been losing anywhere between 5,400 to 8,600 acre-feet of water a year.

 

Facing a Global Water Crisis

USA map of water resources

Map of United States by water stress risk.  Click to see the full report from the World Resource Institute.

Water scarcity is by no means exclusive to Arizona or the Southwest US. Extreme water shortages, droughts and even complete absence of drinking water is rapidly becoming a reality for many people in the World.

According to a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) a quarter of the world’s population is living in countries that face “extremely high” water stress, meaning that they use up 80% of their total water supply every year. A further 44 countries, one-third of the world’s population, are currently at “high” levels of water stress.

While the United States as a whole is a “medium” risk country, there are a few states that face high to extremely high risk of water scarcity. The three states facing the highest risk are Arizona, California and New Mexico. Arizona, in particular, is listed as a “high” risk place, meaning that on average the state consumes 40% of its available water supply in a year.

 

What You Can Do

With the ever-increasing population and expanding need for resources to maintain industrial growth, water scarcity is bound to keep being a major problem for the whole world. It may seem hard to find for an individual to involve themselves in that solution.

However, what you can do is take the time to be educated about where the water in your home is sourced. You can read our recent coverage of the City of Phoenix and City of Scottsdale water reports (more are on their way) to find out how your water is sourced, how safe it is to drink, and what efforts have been made to treat it.

Additionally, you can do your best to conserve water usage within your home and with your outside landscaping and pools.  Our residential water use makes up approximately 25% of all water consumption in Arizona so reductions by consumers can make a difference in our long-term water availability.

With the water supply becoming scarcer, it may become increasingly harder to have access to completely clean, safe drinking water in your home. You can do your part by talking to your Aqua Science expert technician about ways you can converse water usage within your home by installing products like our eco-friendly RO systems and water softeners.