Ry Rivard, a reporter for Voice of San Diego who is part of the Colorado River journalism posse, had the most tweetable summary of the dustup within Arizona and among the seven Colorado River basin states:
Arizona has two internal factions. One of them wanted to work with other states to save water. The other, the Central Arizona Project, wanted to take as much as possible. Now, the rest of the West is taking turns slapping around the CAP. https://t.co/Bfba0QblG3
— Ry Rivard (@ryrivard) April 16, 2018
Four years ago, when I was young and naive, I pointed to what in retrospect I now realize was a warning sign of the train wreck we’re now seeing. Phoenix had rights to some extra Colorado River water it wasn’t using, and it wanted to leave it in Lake Mead. The Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the government agency that runs the Central Arizona Project, had the power to block this, and did.
It’s an example of what an academic colleague described to me at the time as “the anticommons” – where single users of a common pool resource have the power individually to block solutions that are in the collective best interest of the users as a whole.
Daniel Rothberg at the Nevada Independent did a great job in a piece yesterday of showing how politically and diplomatically isolated the Central Arizona Project’s managers have become right now, both within Arizona and in the basin-wide process of coming to terms with how to use less Colorado River water. It’s not just other states mad at Arizona. It’s other states mad at one water agency within Arizona – the CAWCD – and a bunch of other people within Arizona also mad at that the CAWCD.