The monsoon may dump its annual deluge on the Tucson area, but it won’t erase the drought that’s gripped the southwestern United States for at least six years.
Four water experts agreed last week in an Arizona Daily Star roundtable discussion that the end of the drought is not in sight.
But its impact is all too apparent in the Santa Catalina and Pinaleno mountains, where the water shortage turned trees into tinder that combusted last year and this month.
“I don’t think the forest is going to survive very well, and they’re not likely to come back in our lifetimes,” said Tucson Water Director David Modeer.
Tucson is in better shape than many places because it can draw on groundwater from the aquifer beneath it and on Colorado River water that comes through the 336-mile Central Arizona Project canal.
But the drought’s reach into Colorado has reduced the snowpack runoff that feeds the river and increased the likelihood of a river-water shortage, said Kathy Jacobs, a UA researcher and former head of the Tucson office of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
Climate change plays a role, and “the federal government continues to be reluctant to put the resources needed into studying that,” said Gary Woodard of the Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas center.
The state is working to develop a drought plan for the short term, and the National Drought Preparedness Act awaiting a vote in Congress would create a much-needed national drought-information system, said Gregg Garfin, program manager for Climate Assessment for the Southwest.
But more planning and more resources are needed to address this problem, which is not going away, the panelistsagreed.