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State's closing of coal power plants could help facilitate water reallocation: 'We know what the solutions are'

"In the scale of the big challenges the different cities are looking at, this is a very solvable one."

The habitat of ticks has been expanding, which could lead to an increase in tick-borne illnesses.

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Four coal power plants set to be shut down in Arizona could help it and other states manage vital water resources.

The H2O from the Colorado River and groundwater, however, will not be immediately reallocated because of the drought in the state, the Arizona Capitol Times reported. The plants are slated to close by 2032.

They can use up to 141,750 acre-feet of water per year, enough for at least 425,250 homes. But legal challenges and other considerations will determine where the water goes, and it will be a long time until those decisions are made.

"We just don't know at this point," Arizona Department of Water Resources communications administrator Doug MacEachern said.

Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, said, "It's enough to be significant solutions at a community level, not enough to solve all Colorado River's problems."

That's because the West is in a prolonged drought. And as the river basin has dried up, Arizona and six other states have scrambled to manage the resource, which supports Mexico as well as 40 million Americans plus 5.5 million acres of land and hydropower facilities.

Before the creation of the Department of Water Resources in 1980, the state used more than three times as many acre-feet of water as it had people. By 2019, those figures had converged, and the population may now outstrip its water usage.

Only about 15% of Phoenix homeowners have turf lawns compared to roughly 80% in the 1980s, ASU News reported. Farmers are switching to less water-intensive crops. And Scottsdale is paying residents to remove grass (up to $5,000) and pools.

These are among the changes that have helped, but malnutrition and disease are still worries, Porter said. Valley fever, for example, most prevalent in Arizona and California, is becoming more common in Utah. She said agricultural shortfalls could impact the nation's food security.

But Porter is hopeful that a "commitment to good water management" will lead to more solutions. At least the issue is more manageable than water woes in Houston and Boston.

"The problem that central Arizona cities are looking at is, 'How do we make sure we have enough water?'" she said. "And in the scale of the big challenges the different cities are looking at, this is a very solvable one. We know what the solutions are.

"... It's totally doable."

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