The Colorado River is in crisis. And it’s getting worse and worse.

The Colorado River is in crisis.  And it’s getting worse and worse.

An unprecedented shortage on the Colorado River has led to major cuts to Arizona’s water supply this year, about a third of which passes through the canal. That’s because the state agreed decades ago to junior rights to the river in exchange for federal funding for the Central Arizona project, known as CAP.

In the CAP system, farmers and ranchers who work in the fields of central Arizona have a lower priority. They lost about two-thirds of their supply, and the state Farm Bureau says many will have to let their land dry out.

The channel looks the same with less water, but now flows a little slower, said DeEtte Person, a spokesperson at the project’s headquarters in Phoenix, where a quartet of water control operators are seated. in front of stacks of computer screens in a darkened room, tracking and directing water through gates and switches across the state.

With further reductions expected in the coming years, Person said, CAP is already considering moving non-Colorado River water through the channel, possibly groundwater. Water recycling is also being discussed, she said. It’s all part of what she called “long-term disaster planning.”

The canal cuts through the middle of Wong’s farm north of Tucson, and all of the farm’s water comes from it. But Wong and the cotton and alfalfa farmers he leases much of his land from won’t face cuts — yet.

Wong, whose great-grandfather started the family farming business after immigrating from China in the late 19th century, will be spared thanks to the kind of water sharing and trade deals common along a river whose every drop is coveted.

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