The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last week changed operations for Glen Canyon Dam to preserve more water for hydropower generation. This sent Arizona, a junior rights holder, into a tailspin.

“The [Reclamation] secretary is extremely unlikely to allow Lake Mead or Lake Powell to crash,” said Ted Cooke, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, during a shortage briefing Friday.

Cooke said the state is trying to identify additional voluntary conservation actions its water users can take before the federal government must step in. After the bureau declared a shortage last year at Lake Mead, Arizona has been enacting the first tier of a drought plan, with expectations of hitting the second tier in 2023. The estimated conservation for 2022, however, would already satisfy even the Tier 3 standards for the plan.

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“But we need to do more than that,” stressed Cooke. “We need to dig a little deeper and be even more innovative and creative, and actually endure a little bit more suffering together.”

The shortage could start impacting Southern California farms and cities in 2023.

Cooke added that water managers "can’t rely on Mother Nature restoring the Colorado River to what’s been allocated."