Lake Mead, the biggest source for water in the Southwest, is on the verge of reaching a critically low level.
Gov. Doug Ducey said, “this is by far the most pressing issue we face as a state.”
Arizona is facing a deadline to come up with a plan to conserve Colorado River water feeding Lake Mead. That deadline is two weeks away on Jan. 31 and the governor and legislature are running out of time.
Who set that Jan. 31 deadline?
We verified it's Brenda Burman, an Arizonan and the first woman to lead the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees Lake Mead.
Five of the seven western states that share Lake Mead water have filed plans to manage their water and protect Lake Mead as a longer-term source. California and Arizona are the laggards, but California has pulled ahead of Arizona.
“Close isn't done, only done will protect this basin,” Burman said.
What happens if Arizona misses that deadline?
If the governor and legislature don't produce a water plan, Brenda Burman and her staff in Washington will do it for Arizona.
“Arizona is the last piece of this puzzle”
Bruce Babbitt was the last Arizona governor to craft a major water deal in 1980. Arizona can look to its history to find out what happens if it fails to produce a plan.
“Every time that happened, we lost,” he said.
If Arizona does pass a drought plan, the pain will largely be felt by farmers and industry.
But if the feds come up with a plan for Arizona, the state could absorb steep cuts to its water supply from Lake Mead and that might hurt everyone.