Where Are They Getting the Water?

Every time we drove through a new subdivision on the edge of Albuquerque, my Dad used to ask the same question: “Where are they getting the water?”

Tony Davis had a story in the Arizona Daily Star recently that showed the depth to which Arizona has failed to grapple with that question, essentially allowing subdivisions to be built on unsustainable short term supplies with the promise to eventually get more water somewhere, somehow. The proximate cause of the story is legislation authorizing the search for new water and bonding authority to pay for it:

One reason the bill is being seriously considered is that most of these homes have no assured, long-term water supply.

They are being served by a short-term supply that could disappear in a few years to a decade from now because legally, it belongs to somebody else.

The debate on the bill has unearthed some long-simmering issues swirling around the three-county Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District.

The district has signed up more current and future housing developments in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties than it has long-term water supplies for.

By 2025, it will be legally bound to provide more renewable water supplies to its customers than the city of Tucson would be serving.

The legislation has stirred fears that customers in the district will ultimately be subject to “rate shock” once the water supplies are on line and the bills come due.

Today, no one knows for sure when the district would acquire water, where it would come from, what it would cost or what the repayment terms would be.

Among possible sources are farmers along the Colorado River, treated sewage effluent, desalination of seawater or salty, brackish groundwater, or rural areas that have groundwater supplies.

The only thing that’s clear is that the cost would be higher than the district’s current water supplies from the Central Arizona Project, which uses Colorado River water brought by canal.

(h/t Michael Campana for pointing out the story)