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Where Does Arizona Get Its Water?

Where Does Arizona Get Its Water?

Water is the world’s most precious resource. For arid states like Arizona, securing dependable water sources is vitally important. Ongoing drought conditions that have affected the American Southwest and California have prompted the state to develop new strategies to manage the Arizona water supply.

Three Main Sources That Feed the Arizona Water Supply

A portion of Arizona’s water supply comes from reclaimed water. Reclaimed water is wastewater that is treated to be safe for agricultural and industrial use, and maintenance purposes such as watering golf courses, parks, and wildlife areas. Reclaiming wastewater is a good environmental practice and helps ease the burden on the state’s water requirements. However, it does not provide enough water to ease the state’s concerns about ongoing water accessibility. 

The main sources of Arizona water come from groundwater, the Colorado River, and surface water from the state’s lakes, rivers, and streams.


Water found in natural underground reservoirs known as aquifers is groundwater. In some cases, the water in these reservoirs has been stored for millions of years. A significant portion of Arizona’s water comes from groundwater. Because underground reservoirs are replenished by precipitation, groundwater is considered a renewable water source. 

In an effort to reduce reliance on unsustainable sources of groundwater located in Arizona’s heavily populated areas, the Groundwater Management Act was passed in 1980. The Groundwater Management Act protects water users as well as reduces the state’s reliance on other water sources. 

The Colorado River

Arizona also receives a considerable amount of water from the Colorado River. It is considered the state’s largest renewable source of water. The headwaters of the Colorado River are located in the Rocky Mountains. La Poudre Pass Lake in north-central Colorado is the river’s source.

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Nearly 40 million people in seven states rely on the Colorado River and its many tributaries as a source of municipal water. Arizona has been granted the right to use 2.8 million acre-feet of Colorado River water every year.

More than 80% of Arizona residents depend on the state’s infrastructure to deliver Colorado River water according to the Central Arizona Project (CAP). Currently, regions such as Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties are serviced by the Colorado River. 

Surface Water

Surface water refers to all of the streams, rivers, and lakes and is a renewable water source. Another segment of Arizona’s water supply comes from surface water. Like groundwater, surface water is considered renewable. The amount of surface water available from year to year varies due to the state’s desert climate. Storage reservoirs and extensive delivery systems have been built to take the best advantage of surface water when it is available. 

How Does Arizona Conserve Water?

Arizona has strict water conservation requirements. A majority of the state’s water consumers are mandated to follow conservation regulations 365 days a year.

Some of the mandatory conservation requirements include:

  • Farms are assigned a maximum annual allotment of groundwater
  • Agricultural and municipal distribution systems are monitored
  • Some large municipal water providers participate in the Gallon Per Capita Per Day program
  • Outdoor water use may be restricted, including banning water features, turf irrigation, and car washing

Arizona residents, farmers, and industries are vigilant about water conservation. Mandatory and voluntary conservation practices reduce the dependence on out-of-state sources and lessen concerns about having adequate amounts of water for residential, agricultural, and industrial use. 

Do you have additional questions about Arizona’s water and its efforts to conserve this precious resource? Contact a program like CAP – Central Arizona Project. Such organizations focus on providing Arizona state residents with up-to-date information so that they know how to best manage and control their water intake.



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