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Phoenix still in drought status, even as federal restrictions ease

The federal government is  slightly easing restrictions on Colorado River water after a wet winter helped boost reservoir levels. But Phoenix water managers say the city will remain under a  stage one water alert.

“The situation on the Colorado River is hardly resolved, and because of that, we need to continue our efforts to educate the public on the strong need for water efficiency," Phoenix water resources management advisor Cynthia Campbell told KJZZ News. 

Phoenix gets about 40% of its water from the Colorado River. The city  entered stage one of its drought management plan last summer, citing shortages on the river. 

"It's triggered when we see that a supply imbalance may be likely, and we still see that," Campbell said. 

Under a stage one alert, customers are encouraged, not required, to cut back on water usage. But, since issuing the alert last summer, the city reports incentive programs and drought awareness campaigns have led to more conservation.

Campbell said Phoenix water users appear to be making efforts to save water, even as temperatures have soared this summer. 

“We’ve not seen a commensurate demand on water. In fact, we still haven’t hit the peaks we saw in 2020, and we largely attribute that to our customers understanding what conservation means," Campbell said. 

Campbell said the city is continuing to look for ways to help water customers cut back on water usage. In coming months, the water department plans to launch new incentive programs for efficient toilets and turf replacement.

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.