Every last drop: Tackling big questions about Arizona's water future

As water supplies dwindle, concern is rising in Arizona and throughout the Southwest. You have important questions. KJZZ explores the answers.

Water is arguably the most precious resource on Earth, essential to all forms of life. And the Colorado River has long been a lifeline for the Southwest. From ancient civilizations to modern times, it has allowed humans to inhabit the harsh Sonoran Desert and surrounding areas.

But now, the river and its largest reservoirs are drying up. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at alarmingly low levels, and the Southwest is struggling to balance the worst drought in 12 centuries with an ever-expanding population.

As the water levels continue to fall, concern is rising among residents. People are asking what they should be doing, what the government is doing, and whether it’s even viable to continue living in the desert.

While it’s important to continue reporting on large-scale issues such as reservoir levels, state water rights and the regional Drought Contingency Plan, it’s just as important to focus on what this all means to you. How does the region’s fluctuating water supply affect everyday Arizonans – and how do everyday Arizonans affect that fluctuating water supply?

KJZZ is committed to ongoing coverage that puts the water crisis into context, helping Arizonans better understand the local and individual impacts.

In Arizona, water used to be a bipartisan area of politics, albeit a contentious one. But partisanship and tension have increased as water has drained away. Camryn Sanchez reports. →

The Colorado River’s flow is governed by a complex set of agreements made between the entities that rely on it. But that system is in flux as the river's future becomes more uncertain, and the Yuma Valley is at the crux of it all. Alisa Reznick explains. →

Tribal water politics can be complicated and confusing. Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes. Each is trying to tap into the state’s ever-shrinking supplies of surface and groundwater and most of all the Colorado River, following decades of exclusion. Gabriel Pietrorazio reports. →

It’s been almost one year since Arizona’s governor announced new limits on some types of construction in the Phoenix area in response to projected groundwater shortages. But the announcement didn’t stop growth. And officials now think they have a water policy solution for communities most impacted. Katherine Davis-Young reports. →

Contaminants pose threats to Arizona's increasingly precious supply of drinking water. Treatment plants can catch and remove a lot of those contaminants. But how strong is that safety net — and the regulations that knit it together? Nicholas Gerbis reports. →

The EPA proposed formal limits on certain types of PFAS, a group of human-made chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health issues. The chemicals have been found in groundwater in places across the U.S., including Tucson. But the city is no stranger to water contamination — or the effort to confront it. Alisa Reznick reports. →

Policy makers are continually grappling with the challenge of a smaller share of the Colorado River to supply a rapidly growing population. But as quantity becomes a bigger concern, so too does quality — and the threats posed by a growing list of pollutants. Ron Dungan reports. →

Maricopa County’s population has more than doubled over the past 30 years, making it one of the fastest growing regions in the country. But meanwhile, Arizona’s water supply has become more and more depleted. So as growth continues, can the state sustain even more residents? Katherine Davis-Young reports. →

The dwindling water levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead have gotten a lot of attention in the midst of Arizona’s historic drought. But those aren’t the only measures causing alarm. Ron Dungan reports. →

Two decades of the Southwest megadrought have marked Arizona’s driest period in 1,200 years. With climate change in full swing, greenhouse emissions well above pledged targets and the state facing cutbacks to its share of dwindling Colorado River water, many wonder: Is drought the new normal? Nicholas Gerbis reports. →

KJZZ has been looking at water in the Valley and the practical day-to-day impacts the current situation has on Arizonans. Host Mark Brodie talks to reporters Katherine Davis-Young, Ron Dungan and Nicholas Gerbis about what they learned about the state’s water future. →

Historic drought is making water more scarce in Arizona. That has Arizonans asking a lot of questions. Including how expensive their water bills might get. Katherine Davis-Young explores what goes into the cost of your water — and how your monthly bill might change. →

Some see the relatively clean outflow from washing machines, called “gray water,” as an untapped reservoir for water reuse. But is the issue really so black and white? Nicholas Gerbis takes a deep dive into what gray water is, what it takes to use it — and what competing interests might just make it irrelevant. →

As the Colorado River continues to dry up, more and more Arizona cities are activating their drought management plans. Katherine Davis-Young looks at how the city of Scottsdale has been able to reduce its water footprint this year. →

The reservoirs Arizona relies on have fallen to all-time lows. And that has a lot of us re-evaluating our own water usage. Ron Dungan explores water usage in your home — and what might matter the most. →

Arizona and the Southwest are in the midst of the worst drought in centuries. That has led to a lot of concerns — and questions — about the state’s water supply. KJZZ set out to answer those questions. And we wanted to begin by focusing on the origins of our water. Ron Dungan explains where our water comes from, and the journey a single drop takes on its way to your faucet. →

Katherine Davis-Young, Ron Dungan, Nicholas Gerbis

Chad Snow

Sky Schaudt, Jean Clare Sarmiento, Tim Agne