Water Wars

Powerful interests are lining up to move water from river communities to Phoenix and Tucson. Those communities need a veto.

GUEST COLUMN: By Bruce Babbitt | Arizona Republic  

(Editor’s note: Opinion pieces are published for discussion purposes only.)

Another water war is getting underway. This time we are not fighting California. It’s a family feud right here in Arizona. Urban versus rural. Phoenix and Tucson ganging up on the rural communities along the Colorado River in western Arizona.

The opening shots have been fired by out-of-state speculators buying up farms along the river. Once they have these “water farms” in hand, they intend to strip the water from the land and send it 200 miles up the Central Arizona Project canal to developers in Maricopa and Pima counties.

The biggest play to date is being run by a New York speculator, has taken control of a large portion of an irrigation district near Bullhead City in Mohave County. It has offered to sell 14,000 acre-feet per year of water to the Central Arizona Project for subdivisions in central Arizona, enough water for more than 40,000 new houses.

More recently another speculator called Greenstone, LLC, reportedly owned by a London-based firm, has proposed to strip water from a farm in Yuma County to be sold and delivered up the canal to meet the demands of new development in the town of Queen Creek east of Phoenix.

Before this land and water rush takes off, water farm dealers must obtain permission from the Central Arizona Project to use its canal that runs from the river into central Arizona. They are counting on success for a simple reason: the Central Arizona Project is a public agency entirely controlled by elected officials in the Phoenix-Tucson urban corridor.

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