Who controls the water? Arizona agencies slug it out

This is a view across two of four ponds that make up the Avra Valley Recharge Project facility north of Avra Valley Road. It is one of two large Central Arizona Project recharge facilities storing CAP water in the Marana area./Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star 2011

By Tony Davis | Arizona Daily

For three years, federal, state and local water officials have hunted for a solution to declining water levels at Lake Mead, a key drinking-water source for Tucson, Phoenix and their suburbs.

But in the past few months, a bitter power struggle between Arizona’s two top water agencies has ground that effort to a halt.

The turf war pits the Arizona Department of Water Resources, which manages water issues statewide, against the agency operating the Central Arizona Project, the 336-mile-long canal that brings Colorado River water to Tucson and Phoenix.

The agencies are jockeying over a series of issues, many pointing to who controls the state’s most precious resource — and the population growth and jobs it can support.

But the conflict also cuts to the heart of how Colorado River water, the lifeblood of the West, will be managed.

The infighting is interfering with the agencies’ ability to come up with a fix for Lake Mead’s problems, caused by drought, climate change and chronic water overuse. It’s also raising questions about government accountability, transparency and policy.

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