Water in Parker: the illusion of plenty

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With the fourth year of record-breaking drought, the claim that California has only one year of water left in its reservoirs is pretty headline-grabbing.

It’s also not quite true, according to Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Quoted in WIRED magazine, Kightlinger says the state will have ways of stretching water reserves out for as long as possible.

But it does raise the spectre of household water rationing; not the kind that seeks to throw you in jail for using more than your allotment, but the kind that makes your water really, really expensive if you go over a certain amount. “Those penalties usually drive people to push their water use down because they realize they can cut their bill in half,” says Kightlinger. “That’s when you see people going from seven-minute showers to two-minute showers.”

It’s easy to forget that there’s a drought when Lake Havasu and Lake Moovalya are full of beautiful, crystal clear water and the bigger cities around us are lush with green lawns and landscaping. But that may begin to change soon.

Even bigger water users are agricultural, according to the WIRED piece. Agriculture uses 80 percent of the water supply. And this will affect the rest of the nation: about half the produce consumed in the U.S. is from California and includes wheat, nuts, grapes, tomatoes and all kinds of other fruits and vegetables that end up in grocery stores. Arizona, too, is a leading agricultural producer of lettuce, citrus fruit and cotton, among other things.

The Parker valley, a rich agricultural area made possible by irrigation, is theoretically safe because it is part of the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation and utilizes water rights owned by CRIT. But CRIT officials, speaking at the recent 150th year commemoration of the establishment of the reservation, are warning that their water rights will be under attack in the coming months and years. With water becoming a more precious resource, municipalities will be turning their attention anywhere they can get it. “The fight over our water lies ahead of us,” said CRIT Council Chairman Dennis Patch.

So, as we enjoy the river this summer, it’s worth remembering how precious the stuff we’re wakeboarding on is becoming. Lake Powell and Lake Mead – the two largest lakes in the Colorado River system – are less than half full. Our own piece of paradise downstream is the illusion of plenty.


  1. Erin Woody

    The “one year left” statement in and of itself is misleading. It simultaneously IS and ISN’T true, depending on perspective, but my understanding of the situation is pretty limited. Rationing definitely seems to be the next logical step though.

  2. Too bad we can’t cutoff California’s water resources since Desalination probably won’t save them. It looks like we will be in trouble soon. Maybe not this year but probably sooner than we would all hope for. We all need to conserve water as much as we can and make it a daily habit. Save $$$ for artificial turf or go with desert landscaping.

  3. Matthew Bolt

    California and Arizona needs to still come up with a game plan to reduce water usage.

  4. David Greenleaf

    Everybody who came here after me has to leave… then visit and spend lots of money… but then leave again!

  5. Hmm, cut off California? You do realize AZ also takes water off the river using an aqueduct and sends it to Phoenix, right? A major reason we have the lakes we have is CA. Pretty sure CA paid for Parker dam and the power plant.

  6. Debi Craig-Schmitz

    California is taking way more than their share, there is so much water waste in that state, they need crack down on water usage, we have regulations here in Nevada and fines for not following them!

  7. Parker Damn was almost entirely paid for by the United States Bureau of Reclamation utilize google before sounding like a charlatan, And the reason we have these lakes is to control flooding. The sharing of the stored water is just an added bonus.

  8. Parker Dam was built by the BOR with funds advanced from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It was built by the same companies that built Hoover Dam. The river is drying up due to over usage and smaller amounts of snow pack. The biggest immediate threat to the river is Blue Green Algae, (microcystis aeruginosa). It is currently blooming in the river system. Lakes Mead, Mohave and Havasu. It is also in the Parker valley and in the irrigation canal system. So if Lake Havasu goes into full bloom the possibility of shutting down the pump stations is a true risk. If that happens the lake will be closed as well as the river. The paper has said that swimming warning was only into effect for Mohave and Mead. It is in Havasu. At current levels the river may be just a trickle by 2025.

  9. Tracy Kitchens Boggess

    Pipe lines from other states that have to much or enough to share!

  10. Anyone else feel bad for those taking 7 minute showers and wondering how they will reduce it to 2 minutes so they don’t have to file bankruptcy from utilities alone. Bail out residents!

  11. California is building desalination plants, as expensive as they are they need to build more for the sake of not drying up! California is boarded by the ocean and it’s about time they start using it, but respect ocean life!

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