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Colorado River Shortage

In 2021, for the first time since the signing of the Colorado Compact in 1922, a Colorado River water shortage was declared. As a result, the amount of water Arizona can take from the Colorado River has been reduced. On this page, you will find Kyl Center resources that explain and contextualize the Colorado River shortage and its impact on Arizona.

Central AZ Colorado River Shortage Analysis

Colorado River: Comparing the 6-State and California Proposals

Six of the seven Colorado River water using states (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) have jointly submitted a modeling framework to address declining reservoir levels on the Colorado River. California has submitted a separate proposal. This tool shows how these two alternatives (six-state and California) would impact Colorado River water users in Central Arizona. This technical tool is intended to help water managers, decision-makers and community members better understand the ongoing discussion and options for protecting the Colorado River System.

Central Arizona Colorado River Shortage Impact Analysis Tool

Many Central Arizona cities, tribes and industries rely on Colorado River water delivered by the Central Arizona Project (CAP) as part of their water supply. These water users face the prospect of cuts as drought, over-allocation and climate change reduce Colorado River supplies. However, the cuts will not impact CAP water users uniformly because there is a priority pool system for CAP water supplies. Lower priority pools are cut first.
This tool shows how individual CAP water users’ access to Colorado River water supply portfolios will be impacted by increasingly severe cuts. Information about how various water users stand to be impacted by cuts can assist water planners and decision makers in deciding what steps to take in response to declining supplies and can help members of the public understand how different communities may be impacted by shortage.
Central Arizona Colorado River Shortage Impact Analysis Tool
Screenshot of Colorado River Shortage Story Map

Colorado River Shortage: What it Means and What Comes Next

The Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute is creating the Arizona Colorado River Visualization Enterprise. The "Arizona CuRVE Project" aims to model the impacts to Arizona of Colorado River climate, hydrologic, and management scenarios.

The first component of the Arizona CuRVE Project is a Story Map that aims to help people understand and explain the Colorado River shortage. It examines what the shortage means for water conservation, residential water users, groundwater pumping, utility costs, urban growth, new water supplies, and water rights. This Story Map provides a detailed analysis of the shortage and offers interactive maps to help explain which communities face the most significant impacts as a result of the drought and the Colorado River's over-allocation.

Explore the Story Map

Colorado River: Central Arizona Entitlements and Access Tool

Most of the pain of Colorado River shortages will fall on those who are using the water, rather than on those who are entitled to it. Understanding this nuance may help water managers discover additional, innovative ways to lease, trade, and exchange water to mitigate shortage impacts.

This web tool visualizes Central Arizona contract entitlements to Colorado River water and also takes into account long-term leases and exchanges, showing who has access to that water.

Being clear about those entitled to water and those who actually have access to use it can help water policy leaders better frame complex Colorado River shortage issues, which will aid the general public's understanding of how their communities might be impacted.

Try the Web Tool

Screenshot of Entitlements and Access Tool