Study: Global warming is shrinking river vital to 40M people

FILE – In this April 16, 2013 file photo, a "bathtub ring" marks the high water mark as a recreational boat approaches Hoover Dam along Black Canyon on Lake Mead, the largest Colorado River reservoir, near Boulder City, Nev. Scientists say global warming may already be shrinking the Colorado River and could reduce its flow by more than a third by the end of the century. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

The Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Department of Water Resources has received an infusion of money in the state budget.

Arizona's water department will get $2 million in the fiscal year 2018 budget, with $2 million more expected in both 2019 and 2020, the Arizona Capitol Times reported (http://bit.ly/2qEoCTt ) last week.

Tom Buschatze, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said the money will go toward adding employees and keeping water from the Colorado River in Lake Mead rather than taking it out.

If the water level in Lake Mead drops below 1,075 feet (327.66 meters), Arizona would start seeing cutbacks.

Buschatzke said keeping water in the lake has already prevented cuts. According to Buschatzke, Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico all kept water in the lake, amounting to between 8 and 10 feet (2.44 and 3.05 meters). The lake stayed only a couple feet above 1,075 (327.66 meters), meaning the conserved water was crucial, Buschatzke said.

Despite the additional funding, staffing levels still remain well below the agency's levels before the Great Recession.

The fiscal year 2018 budget gives Arizona's water department as many as 11 new employees, Buschatzke said. The department had 225 employees before major cutbacks to staffing across state government during the recession left it with 90, Buschatzke said.

The department hasn't been cut in the past two years, though, and will be back up to about 150 employees during fiscal year 2018.

Buschatzke said the funding sends a signal to other cities, businesses or nonprofits that could create a "snowball effect" of people coming forward to contribute either water or money.

"That's a strong message that's being sent," he said. "We're not going to rely on Mother Nature to solve our issues on the Colorado River."

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