May 21, 1963

Central Arizona Project:
Tapping Arizona's Last Water Hole



Arizona's economic and population growth is one of the marvels of recent time.

But this growth must ultimately come to a halt in the next decade unless more water is obtained for the heavily populated areas in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties.

Located in this important central part of the state are:
 

* 75 per cent of our citizens
* 75 per cent of the tax base
* 90 per cent of the industry
* 60 per cent of the irrigated land

In this critical area the water problem is simply this:
 

Needs: Every year we use 4.3 million acre-feet* of water
 
-- 1.3 million ac/ft comes from "surface" sources, mainly the Gila and Salt River systems.
-- 3.0 million ac/ft is pumped out of the ground.
Supply: The 1.3 million ac/ft of surface water is a dependable average annual supply. But of the 3.0 million ac/ft pumped out of the ground only .70 million ac/ft is replaced by annual "recharge" through rainfall percolating into the ground.

The remaining 2.3 million ac/ft is drawn out of our underground "water bank" accumulated over many centuries. This bank is being rapidly depleted and many acres of farm land in marginal water areas go out of production every year. Eventual water bankruptcy is the guaranteed result of this kind of policy.

THAT LAST HOLE: THE COLORADO RIVER

Our use of water is increasing every year and, except for the Colorado River, there isn't any remaining surface water available.

Twelve years ago the Senate passed the Central Arizona Project bill (CAP) for a second time. In the House, we were met by California interests who claimed ownership of the water this project would divert. After a long fight in its Interior Committee, the House said to Arizona, in effect: "Until you prove your legal right to more Colorado River water, we refuse to pass this bill."

Thus was sparked the 11-year-old U. S. Supreme Court lawsuit, "Arizona vs. California." Sometime before June 15--perhaps even before you read this newsletter--the Court is expected to rule. In poker games and lawsuits there are no sure things. But most of us are hopeful that Arizona will win.

COURT VICTORY WON'T BRING WATER

Winning the lawsuit won't add a drop to our supplies. The battle will return to the Congress, where your Arizona delegation will face its greatest challenge, and opportunity, since statehood.
 
 

* An acre-foot (ac/ft) of water is the amount needed to cover an acre of land with a foot of water. It amounts to 325, 850 gallons.

 
2.

Let's take a look at CAP and some of the difficulties we'll be facing in the important months ahead.

A HUGE RIVER BASIN

The Colorado River Basin is one of America's largest river systems, covering an area as large as France. From its headwaters in northern Colorado, the river runs 1, 450 miles before emptying into the Gulf of California.

In 1922, the seven states in the basin met and drafted the Santa Fe Compact to divide the estimated 15 million ac/ft of water which yearly flows into and down the river.
 
* The seven states first divided the river into the Upper and Lower Basins, each basin to get 7,500,000 ac/ft a year.
* A U.S. Treaty requires delivery of 1.5 million ac/ft annually to Mexico, but this water is not subtracted from the 15 million ac/ft available since the water can first be used before it is sent to Mexico.

The Upper Basin States (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming), in partnership with the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation and Congress, have gone ahead to build dams which produce revenue for construction of irrigation projects and other improvements throughout the four states.

But the Lower Basin states--Arizona, California and Nevada--have had more stormy relations, including the long and bitter Arizona-California fight.

THE COURT ACTION

Acting for the U. S. Supreme Court justices, a "special master" conducted lengthy hearings. He recommended to the high court that the 7.5 million ac/ft of Lower Basin water be divided in this manner:
 

* For California: 4.4 million ac/ft (now taking 5.1 million).
* For Arizona: 2. 8 million ac/ft (now taking 1. 3 million).
* For Nevada: 300, 000 ac/ft (now taking only minor amounts).

Arizona hopes the court will support the recommendations of its master, Judge Simon Rifkind, and thus give Arizona the right to 1.5 million more ac/ft than it now is using.

The Central Arizona Project is designed to bring 1.2 million ac/ft of this new water to the homes, industries and farms of the state.

HOW THE PROJECT WOULD WORK

Arizona will ask Congress to authorize the project at a total cost of about $1.1 billion. But this money would be appropriated and spent not all at once but in stages over a 10 year construction period. These are some of the important mechanics:
 

* First, a large dam would be built at Bridge Canyon. The dam provides water storage, but more importantly, electricity would be generated there. The electricity sold would provide much of the money needed to pay for the dam, canals and other water works. While farmers, cities and industrial users will pay for water received, without this electrical subsidy the water would be too expensive.
* From the sale of electricity and water the project would repay the U.S. Treasury, over a 50 year period, about 97 per cent of the total $1.1 billion cost. The 3 per cent "non-reimbursable" portion covers flood control, recreation and other general benefits. In addition, the Treasury would receive 2 7/8 per cent interest on the reimbursable money loaned.

 
3.
THE CENTRAL ARIZONA PROJECT

Water would be taken from the Colorado River near Parker Dam. It would be pumped 985 feet over mountains, then would flow by gravity through a 220 mile aqueduct into Central Arizona. Additional canals and dams would provide water for Pinal County and Tucson. Main project dam at Bridge Canyon would provide power for pumping and revenues to help pay general project costs. Marble Canyon dam site is center of controversy at present. Charleston Dam might be built to regulate San Pedro-Gila system.

 
4.

WATER FOR MORE FARM SURPLUS?

Why, it will be asked, should the government spend a billion dollars to irrigate more land when our storage bins are bulging with surplus crops? Here is our reply:
 

* Most of this water will eventually be used for domestic and industrial needs--not for agriculture.
* CAP will not put one single new acre into production. It will simply save SOME, but not all, of presently cultivated acres. Without new water supplies many thousands of acres of fine farm land will have to be abandoned.
* Surplus crops other than cotton are not grown in this area. Cotton is limited by allotments anyway and the bill would expressly provide that none of the water produced could be used to irrigate crops in surplus.

TUCSON'S IMPORTANT STAKE

Contrary to what many might think, Tucson has a vital stake in the CAP:
 

* Tucson has no surface water. Its entire supply comes from underground. Right now the city uses for domestic and industrial purposes about 50,000 ac/ft; farming operations in the area take another 50,000 ac/ft.
* Against this 100,000 ac/ft for annual consumption only half is replaced by recharge; the other half comes from overdrafts on our underground water bank.
* The Central Arizona Project will deliver 100,000 ac/ft to Tucson--nearly 10 per cent of the state's total new water supply.

Engineers calculate that without new water supplies Tucson's population (now around 300,000) cannot safely grow beyond 400,000.

With the 100,000 ac/ft from CAP, the city could plan on enough water to support a population of 800,000. (And, for my part, that just might be a good place to stop!)
 
 

THE OUTLOOK




Many uncertainties and problems lie ahead ... Congress is being besieged to make drastic cuts in federal spending. In such an atmosphere opponents of CAP are greatly advantaged. Many congressmen would like to go home and tell how they voted against a one billion dollar project ... We expect little trouble in the Senate. But if California loses the court case, and if its leaders elect to oppose our project, they'll outnumber us in the House 38 to 3.

In addition, there are some basic and honest differences of opinion among Arizona water and power agencies and the various state leaders. One of the surest ways to kill any reclamation proposal is disunity in the state. The people of Arizona have a right to expect--and I think they'll get--statesmanship and a team spirit from their elected leaders.
 
 

WATER AND PEOPLE

Senator Ashurst used to tell on himself the story of his maiden speech in the U.S. Senate. "Mr. President," he began, "The new baby state I represent has the greatest of potential. This state could become a paradise. We need only two things: water and lots of good people." A gruff senior senator from New England interrupted, "If the Senator will pardon me for saying so, that's all they need in Hell!"

We have "lots of good people" in Arizona. But after 50 years the search for dependable water supplies is still the big story of our state.


Previous Report: May 3, 1963 -- Taxes and Spending V: The President and Henry Ford -- An Old Idea Revived
Next Report: June 7, 1963 -- Fright For Sale

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