My well-documented Opinion that the Tucson Star would not print:

Water Management Arizona Style

The CAP officials have known for years that there could be a problem obtaining future water supplies. In 2008, government water officials convened a Tucson/Pima County Water Study for a sustainable water future. The representatives of CAGRD and CAP both were claiming that they had water in McMullan and Butler Aquifers. A second “water supply” would come from a  desalination plant at Rocky Point. In both cases, CAP officials had not asked the people losing their water supply to the CAP pipeline.

Upon hearing claims an the Water Study, I investigated and found that the McMullen Valley area was inhabited. I contacted the Chamber at Wenden and asked if they knew about the claims of CAGRD and CAP stating they owned McMullen Aquifer. The citizens of Salome and Wenden definitely did not want their water supply drained.

I was able to send them the video of the Water Study meetings, so they could grasp the reality. The excellent legislators, Lynne Pancrazi and Russell Jones were able to put a rider on the Bill for CAP's budget to specify that none of the money could be spent on hooking up CAP pipeline to the McMullen Aquifer. You can watch that video of the claims of CAP officials in the Water Study.

The same situation existed with the idea of a desalination plant at Rocky Point. At the U of A Water Resources conference in Yuma in 2011, the representatives of the Mexican Government made it clear that they were not to destroy their tourist and fishing trades at Rocky Point so Arizona could have more water. Mexico did have their own desalination plans—on the Pacific Ocean where heat from a power plant and salt slurry from a de-sal plant could be dissipated into the ocean waters, not into the Sea of Cortez, making it a second Dead Sea.

One egregious problem is the CAP underlying, Groundwater Replenishment District. Developers created a bill 1993 to circumvent the Groundwater Code's safe yield mandate. Developers would be able to recharge CAP water away from the area where the groundwater was being pumped—even though there were no CAP allocations available! This explains why CAP has been so aggressive in getting new water—to fulfill an impossible dream created by the AZ legislature. CAP does not have to worry about funding—there is no maximum for the amount the CAGRD homes and providers will have to pay for water in the future. This scheme also means there is continual groundwater pumping in a ring around Tucson.

Remember that the CAP project was funded by the Federal Government to subsidize cotton farmers who were creating serious groundwater depletion, including huge fissures in Queen Creek area. However, the 1980 Groundwater Code grandfathered all agricultural pumping.

As pointed out by Michael Hanemann, UC-Berkley, in his paper on the Central Arizona Project in 2002, in 1967, Young and Martin, two young economists at the U of A pointed out that cotton farmers would go broke by paying for CAP water; therefore, they would continue to pump groundwater. To make their prediction come true, the Groundwater Code of 1980 grandfathered the continued ag use of groundwater. Quite surprising since the need of the CAP pipeline was the drawdown caused by agriculture. The average 125 feet, with areas of 300-600 feet.

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So that is water management in Arizona. Ignore and circumvent science and common sense, then wave disaster flags when a traditional drought arrives.

Nancy Freeman

Writer/Technical Editor
Executive Director of Groundwater Awareness League
Producer of “Water Facts” on Access Tucson: 2009-2010