How we got into our Colorado River mess (and how we get out of it?)

Bret Jaspers at public radio station KJZZ in Phoenix did a two-part piece starting with a nice overview of our new book, followed by a good dive, from the Arizona perspective, into the options we have for extricating ourselves from the Colorado River’s overallocation problems.

Arizona’s “great forgetting”

I returned to a message I’ve been hammering on regarding what’s going on in Arizona right now:

“In 1968 when the Central Arizona Project was approved, Arizona knew that there was not sufficient water to keep that canal full year in and year out,” Fleck said.

He points to testimony from then-Reclamation Commissioner Floyd Dominy, who told a House of Representatives subcommittee that “sooner or later, and mostly sooner, the natural flows of the Colorado River will not be sufficient to meet water demands, either in the lower basin or the upper basin, if these great regions of the Nation are to maintain their established economies and realize their growth potential.”

Fleck said Arizona knew that without augmentation, the water available for CAP canal customers would fluctuate.

“And somehow that was forgotten, and Arizona grew to depend on a full CAP canal every year,” Fleck said.

As John Berggren pointed out when I pushed on the same point last summer at a conference in Boulder, banging on this point may not be helpful at this point. Arizona did what it did over the last half century, and is where it is now, mistake or not.

It’s hard to disagree with him on this, but I still keep saying it.

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