This story from the weekend Desert Sun in Palm Springs illustrates why it's going to be difficult to come to an easy solution to the chronic decline of Lake Mead and the attendant water supply problems it could bring to Arizona as early as a year or two from now.
The story details how the Coachella Valley is glomming onto the use of more Colorado River water to replace dwindling groundwater supplies for use on golf courses, new developments and the like. It also notes that there is some controversy over this, given that the Colorado and Lakes Powell and Mead are not exactly brimming over with water.
Here's an excerpt from the story by Desert Sun energy-water reporter Sammy Roth:
But banking on the Colorado is a dangerous long-term plan.
While the river is in better shape than the Coachella Valley's fragile aquifer, it faces a slow-burning crisis of its own. Demand for Colorado River water exceeds supply, and reservoir levels are falling dramatically as the Colorado River Basin suffers through a 16th year of drought. Human-caused climate change — which is expected to bring longer, more frequent and more severe droughts — will only make the problem worse.
"It's really not the best strategy to rely on Colorado River water, and to assume that Colorado River water will be there in perpetuity," said Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist and senior scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The Colorado River Basin is actively running out of water."
Officials at the Coachella Valley Water District say using more river water is vital to reducing the burden on the valley's groundwater aquifer. They've made it a priority to pipe more Colorado River water to golf courses, which have traditionally pumped huge amounts of groundwater.
They also point out that because the Coachella Valley Water District has "senior" rights to Colorado River water, the agency would be among the last water users to face cutbacks in an extreme shortage. Arizona and Nevada would lose much of their river water before the Coachella Valley loses a single drop.
"We don't feel under the existing scenario that we're at any immediate risk," said John Powell, Jr., president of the Coachella Valley Water District's board of directors. "I'm not saying that's a license to use more water than we need."