Facing cutbacks on the Colorado River, Arizona farmers look to groundwater to stay in business

Pinal farmland

 

By Ian James | Arizona Republic

MARICOPA — In satellite images, the farm fields in central Arizona stand out like an emerald green quilt draped across the desert landscape.

Seeing it from the ground level, the fields of alfalfa, corn and wheat are interspersed with the furrows of freshly plowed fields. After the cotton harvest, stray fluffy bolls lie scattered on the ground like patches of snow.

A large share of the water that flows to these fields comes from the Colorado River, and the supply of water is about to decrease dramatically.

Under Arizona’s plan for coping with drought, farmers who’ve received Colorado River water from the Central Arizona Project Canal for more than three decades now expect to see their allotment slashed more than 60 percent, from 275,000 acre-feet to 105,000 acre-feet per year for the first three years of a shortage. After that, their supply of Colorado River water will be cut off and they plan to rely solely on pumping groundwater from wells.

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