[SCOOP] Banking on drought: private companies see profits in Southwest water shortages

In 2005, Vidler was still storing excess Colorado River water underground//Courtesy of Vidler Water Company


By Elizabeth Whitman | Phoenix New Times

Last October, Dorothy Timian-Palmer was frustrated.

Over the course of two decades, Vidler Water Company, where she is CEO, had spent nearly $100 million in Arizona on water, land, permits, and construction. Now, the Southwest was in the throes of a 20-year drought, Arizona was bracing for epic losses to its supply of Colorado River water, and it was time for one of Vidler’s biggest investments to start paying off.

As Timian-Palmer had told investors, because Arizona would soon be forced to take less water from the Colorado River, “they’ll be out looking at additional water supplies.” During an earnings call in August, she said, “That means our credits” — water stored underground — “become even more attractive.”

Earlier in 2018, Timian-Palmer offered that water, of which it had more than 80 billion gallons (about 125,000 Olympic swimming pools’ worth), to one of the biggest water buyers, the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District. The District was deeply affected by the impending Colorado River shortages, albeit indirectly, yet the people in charge of it didn’t seem particularly interested in her offer.

The drought was supposed to be better than that for business.


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February 2019