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Colorado River water cuts in 2023 having impact on Pinal County farmers

Colorado River Drought Tribe
Posted at 9:46 AM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 12:57:27-04

PINAL COUNTY, AZ — For the second year in a row, water cuts are coming to Arizona as water levels along the Colorado River continue dropping. The state is set to lose 592,000 acre-feet of water in 2023, which is 21% of Arizona's annual water allotment from the Colorado River.

Like the previous round of cuts, Pinal County will face the brunt of the water reductions. The loss will nearly wipe out the allotment for agricultural users, including Jace Miller of Triple M Farms near Casa Grande.

His farm grows alfalfa and Bermuda grass among other crops and has been for decades.

Next year, however, his farm will no longer use Central Arizona Project water, where Colorado River water diverts to. This is on top of the previous water cuts his farm dealt with last year.

Miller is worried about his future in farming, which has been part of his family's life in Arizona for more than 100 years. 

“We’re trying to hold a positive attitude, but it is most likely we will be setting up layoffs and downsizing our company," Miller says. "If worse comes to worse, if the situation gets dire enough, we may not be in business at all within the next few years. Most of us local farmers may have to just close up shop and go find another job."

On Tuesday, the Arizona Farm Bureau issued a statement regarding the impending water cuts, stating:

"Farmers in Central Arizona are already living through the impacts of reduced water deliveries, and [Tuesday's] announcement will only increase the pressure on farming communities."

The City of Phoenix and its 1.7 million customers won't be affected by the latest round of cuts but is "disappointed" by the lack of action by the Bureau of Reclamation and Basin States to come up with a plan to reduce demand in order to save more water on the Colorado River.

Although Phoenix and many Valley communities remain unscathed by the future cuts, water policy experts like Chris Kuzdas from the Environmental Defense Fund say that potential cuts in the next few years may be possible.

“The idea of water not being able to move past the dams to get to Arizona is no longer theoretical exercise," Kuzdas states. "That’s a real risk we face if we can’t come together and hash out an agreement to use less water than we’ve ever used before.”

Kuzdas also says that he's hopeful for a future agreement between the Basin States and the Bureau of Reclamation, along with the $4 billion going toward combating drought in the West as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.