Arizona – a century of fear that California wants to steal its water

In the fall of 1934, Arizona Gov. Benjamin Moeur dispatched the Arizona National Guard to the banks of the Colorado River near its junction with the Bill Williams to try to block efforts to build what would eventually become Parker Dam. Their fear: that the Colorado River Aqueduct, which would tap into the new reservoir, would steal Arizona’s god-given Colorado River water, siphoning it off to dreaded Southern California.

Arizona Republic, 1965

Arizona Republic, 1965

It’s the most dramatic case of a longstanding Arizona tradition – the fear that California is out to steal Arizona’s water*. It is good to see, in Brandon Loomis’s Arizona Republic story today, that Arizona is not straying from its roots:

Arizona currently has 9 million acre-feet in the ground, having socked it away in aquifers during years when the river provided more than it needed. Californians are starting to look at that cushion as their potentially their own, (Grady Gammage) said, while others question why some Arizona farmers are growing cotton with water that could save California food crops.

“That is penalizing us for being responsible,” he said, “and rewarding them for being irresponsible.”

Phoenix water services director Kathryn Sorensen said the state’s water providers are starting to talk about a California threat. One potential area of concern is a California drought-relief bill now being envisioned in Congress.

“California has not shared what they’re doing,” she said.

* To be fair, California did succeed in snagging a lot of the river’s flow and, more importantly (as Brandon’s story explains) a deal under which Arizona bears pretty much the entire risk for shortage in severe, sustained drought.

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  1. Pingback: Update on Arizona v. California | jfleck at inkstain

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