It’s legal simply because that’s where the majority of Arizona’s population live…

…It’s legal simply because that’s where the majority of Arizona’s population live…

Valdez: Why central Arizona can raid everyone else’s water – and it’s all legal


Linda Valdez, opinion columnistPublished 6:07 a.m. MT Feb. 15, 2018 | Updated 10:24 a.m. MT Feb. 15, 2018

Linda Valdez: Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District was not created to raid water from other counties. But that’s what’s happening.

Mohave County is afraid big, bad Maricopa County and its sidekicks Pima and Pinal counties will steal the water Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu need to grow.

“We will become a dust bowl,” says Mohave County Supervisor Lois Wakimoto.

That could be bad optics for the entire state – and Mohave County does not plan to go quietly.

Investors bought farms for their water

Wakimoto says water speculators bought up farmland so Colorado River water allotments can be transferred to central Arizona.

The transfer will be orchestrated by the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District, aka CAGRD.

It’s a state-created entity with the potential to limit growth in rural western Arizona for the sake of Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties.

CAGRD was not meant to be a bad boy.

It grew out of the sound water management policies embodied in the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, which created management districts in urban counties where developers must demonstrate an assured 100-year water supply before building.

In these areas, groundwater is managed to prevent long-term depletion – but that can limit growth. Enter the Central Arizona Project, which brings Colorado River water to allow those areas to grow in spite of groundwater limitations.

In the 1990s, the Legislature created and then expanded CAGRD – operated by the CAP board – to help developers meet water-supply and sustainable yield requirements.

Developers pay dues to come under CAP’s umbrella and it becomes CAGRD’s job to find water to replenish the groundwater their developments use.

How lawmakers unwittingly made this mess

Like a pig after truffles, CAGRD hunts water for its members.

“Arizona unwittingly created a situation for water rights speculators to buy up land with Colorado River water rights,” says Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute.

ALLHANDS: Water will be THE fight in 2018

Wakimoto says that’s what’s happening in Mohave County, where river water historically used by farmers will be bought by CAGRDunder a plan that Mohave County and area cities are fighting.

“It appears three wealthy counties are set to divert water from rural counties,” according to a resolution passed by the Mohave County Supervisors.

The resolution characterizes the “transfer of any Colorado River water or any allocations to such water from Mohave County to central Arizona as a continual attack on the water rights and economy of rural Arizona.”

Porter says: “I feel sure that was not in anyone’s mind when CAGRD was created.”

The water transfer is not a done deal

The 1980 groundwater law imposed the discipline on growth in central Arizona by tying development to the availability of groundwater.

But CAGRD, which has a legal obligation to find water for its members in central Arizona, “disrupts the orderly universe” of the groundwater law, says CAP board member Terry Goddard, who will be “at least one vote against the Mohave County transfer” when it comes to the board for final approval.

This is far from a done deal. There are other steps after the CAP board votes. Mohave County has engaged the lobbying firm of HighGround Inc. to try to block the transfer at any one of those steps.

But CAGRD reform doesn’t look likely ……….Patrick Cunningham of HighGround also says he doesn’t think people expected CAGRD to go to rural Arizona and “raid their water.”

Litigation is an option, but one of a number of water bills currently in the Legislature is written in a way that could shield CAP from such lawsuits, says Wakimoto.

Unfortunately, there is currently no bill to reform how CAGRD operates.

Western Arizona cities are left with dust-bowl nightmares.

No water, no room for Mohave to grow

Wakimoto says Mohave County is “starting to experience growth” and that river water no longer used for farming is needed to sustain growth in her county.

“We don’t believe that if the ground is fallow that the water should be up for grabs,” she says.

When it comes to fairness, you can’t fault her logic.

But CAGRD’s mandate to find water for central Arizona’s growth puts rural western Arizona at an unfair disadvantage.

We are getting bullied by people who have more money and feel the need to grow Phoenix and Maricopa County,” says Wakimoto.

Reach Valdez at


Why rising migrant deaths matter to you

Dark money is not just a Democratic issue

What’s the point of living a long life?

Want more opinions? Click here to subscribe to


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: