From Arizona Central (Bruce Babbitt):
Arizona is once again at a critical decision point in the ongoing struggle to secure our water resources. If we fail to take the right course, we risk igniting yet another Colorado River water war.
Lake Mead, from which we draw our share of the Colorado River, is dropping to perilous levels. In order to stabilize lake levels and protect our water supply, the Department of Water Resources has negotiated an agreement with California and the other basin states to begin reducing water diversions from the Lake.
California and the other basin states are ready to sign the agreement, known as the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). Arizona is the lone holdout, mainly because our state Legislature, caught up in special interest demands, has failed to ratify the DCP agreement.
CAWCD is overstepping its role
Behind this legislative impasse are two groups threatening to block ratification.
The first is the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD), a local elected body that distributes our Colorado River water throughout central Arizona.
CAWCD is now reaching beyond its proper role by attempting to intervene in the interstate Colorado River negotiations.
These interstate negotiations are the exclusive job of the Department of Water Resources, whose director is appointed by the governor to represent all Arizonans…
Pinal County districts also are a threat
The second threat to legislative ratification of the DCP comes from the Maricopa Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District, the Central Arizona Irrigation District and several other agricultural districts located in Pinal County.
In 2004, these Pinal districts signed onto a far-reaching water settlement agreement worked out under the leadership of Sen. Jon Kyl. In that settlement the districts agreed that their use of Colorado River water would be phased out not later than 2030, after which they would go back to full reliance on groundwater.
In exchange for giving up long-term rights to Colorado River water and pumping more local groundwater, the districts bargained for and received heavily subsidized Colorado River rates to be paid for by property taxes levied on landowners in Phoenix, Tucson and throughout central Arizona…
It matters a lot. If the Drought Contingency Plan is not ratified soon California and the other Basin states may decide to proceed without us. That could be the beginning of another Colorado River water war.
Arizona has blundered into Colorado River wars in the past, and we usually lose. We must not go that way again. It is up to the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey to promptly ratify the Drought Contingency Plan as negotiated by the Department of Water Resources.