The Central Arizona Project celebrates its 50th Anniversary while facing a drought that may impact 80 percent of the population.
By Douglas Towne | Phoenix Magazine
It’s no secret that Arizona and California often don’t see eye-to-eye, as evidenced by the enmity the Diamondbacks and Suns have for the Dodgers and Lakers. But it’s when the two states haggle over water that things can turn nasty. Tempers frayed so badly about the Colorado River in 1934 that Arizona Governor Benjamin Moeur ordered armed National Guard troops ferried across the river to stop California’s construction on Parker Dam.
Decades of bad hydrologic vibes became water under the bridge when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Colorado River Basin Project Act in 1968. “I have a feeling of freedom this morning when I see California and Arizona sitting there, arm-in-arm, smiling with each other,” Johnson said. The legislation funded the Central Arizona Project, a massive plumbing network that provides water to tribes, cities, irrigation districts and recharge projects in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties. The 336-mile aqueduct, which can be seen from outer space, was completed in 1994 at a cost of $4 billion. But it came with a catch: Colorado River shortages would impact Arizona before California.