Vol. XX, No. 2
February, 1982

Arizona and Water

In the 1700s, when Spaniards gazed across the Tucson basin and decided to post a garrison there, the first thing they looked for was water. They found it in the nearby Santa Cruz River, then a powerful waterway that was full 12 months a year, and their walled presidio rose quickly in the general area of what is now El Presidio Park.

With the years, the shape of things changed dramatically. The Spanish eventually left North America, replaced by settlers who began to build a town where the Spanish fort had once stood. And as the little community thrived, the Santa Cruz River also changed -- into a dry riverbed.

What remains of the natural stream of the Santa Cruz today runs deep underground. Only the occasional torrential downpours of summer seem to bring the river back to life, if only briefly.

Phoenix grew more slowly than Tucson in the frontier years, but its beginnings were similarly tied to a river.

Phoenix, in fact, was barely a town when, in the late 1860s, the first Anglo farmer decided to dig some irrigation canals that would funnel part of the Salt River to his farm. Those first canals were actually closer to Mesa than to the Phoenix of today. But they spelled a beginning and a future, both linked to water.

After Congress agreed to the Gadsden Purchase, a delegation of congressmen toured Southern Arizona, part of the new acquisition. They reported back that there had been a horrible mistake, that Congress had bought a vast expanse of hot, dusty, arid wasteland that offered no future, held no promise and was of no value whatever. Their recommendation was that Congress sell it back to Mexico at once.

Congress, however, seldom undoes what it has done and that proved Southern Arizona's good fortune in this case, for it remained the property of the United States. But from the beginning, talk among settlers was of water. Water for crops, water for industry, water for people, water for cities.

The talk about water has never stopped.

Phoenix and Tucson still share a "water connection," but each is different.

Both cities have a river cutting through the heart of downtown, but where the Santa Cruz in Tucson is a dry bed, the Salt still runs strong and above ground, year round. The Salt, in fact, was the site of the nation's first water reclamation project -- a turn of events that helped Phoenix leapfrog ahead of Tucson.

Phoenix today lives with the fear of floods. While intermittent summer floods to the south of Tucson wipe out crops, floods in the Phoenix area threaten the city itself,

playing havoc with transportation, ripping apart highways and leaving wreckage with a multi-million dollar price tag.

Tucson, on the other hand, does not harbor a fear of too much water, but the prospect of not having enough. It is a city dependent on wells, and the water table drops deeper and deeper almost yearly. The motors that drive the pumps get bigger and bigger and use more and more electricity, which in turn drives water bills higher and higher. As writer Bill Waller so wryly noted in The Arizona Daily Star, "Tucson has a drinking problem." Our industry, our people, our farms and our commerce all drink a lot of water. And the more we drink, the more we need.

An array of other interests all have a stake in what happens to water in Phoenix and in Tucson. Southern Arizona today produces 65 percent of all the domestic copper in the United States. That isn't just a major part of the Arizona economy, but a major part of the national economy. And the mines need water. The water needs for agriculture are obvious, and while farms have declined nationally, agriculture has expanded in Arizona. The water needs of the farmers have to be addressed. Likewise, the special water requirements of our Indian tribes. All these pieces interlock, and none is more important than the other.

* * *

For Phoenix in 1982, the most pressing water issue is probably that of flood control and dam safety; for Tucson, it is the completion of the Central Arizona Project. There are two jobs at hand -- one designed to keep a lot of water where it is, and the second, to move a lot of water to a place where it's needed.

Let me discuss each of these separately:

The Central Arizona Project

Some years ago, a beginning reporter at a Tucson newspaper, brand-new to the state, was asked by the city editor to go to the library and get the file on CAP. He returned with an envelope marked, "Civil Air Patrol."

Few people outside of Arizona know of CAP. But no one who has been in Arizona more than a week has not heard of it.

When Arizona became a state in 1912, a young onetime Maricopa County sheriff named Carl Hayden became our first member of Congress. About the same time, a monumental water idea was born: could Arizona, with federal help, somehow build a massive pipe that would carry water from the raging Colorado River, many miles away, to central Arizona's bleached and sun-baked deserts?


 
There was agreement that such a project was possible, but the reality was a long and exhausting fight away. It wasn't until 1968 that Congress okayed what we know today as the Central Arizona Project. President Johnson signed the bill into law and today that pipeline is almost completed to Phoenix, and due to be in Tucson by 1989.

What is CAP? It's a massive, expensive ($1.5 billion) project to carry water from the Colorado River through huge concrete aqueducts to Central and Southern Arizona. It is necessary because, especially in the South, there is not enough water underground to sustain the kind of growth that is anticipated in the next 10 to 20 years. The CAP will supplement natural water supplies and will help provide water for cities, the Indians, industry and farmers and ranchers.

The project consists of three sections: the first, beginning at the California border at Parker, and stretching to Phoenix, is called the Granite Reef Section. The second is the Salt-Gila Section, and the third is the Tucson Section. Granite Reef is virtually complete; Salt-Gila is in the beginning stages of construction and the Tucson portion is undergoing design and environmental impact studies.

Congressional approval of the project didn't eliminate all the obstacles for CAP, and since 1968, dozens of issues we never thought about have cropped up and have had to be resolved.

But we have always had a spirit of civility and cooperation among those in public service in Arizona, and nowhere did that team spirit come into stronger play than during the weeks we reached an alternative decision about the proposed construction of Orme Dam. Everyone involved agreed that Phoenix needs structures for flood control and storage of CAP water. But building Orme Dam would have meant relocating the Ft. McDowell Indian tribe.

It also would have meant that the American Bald Eagle, our national bird, would have lost one of its remaining natural habitats. Several of us involved with CAP believed that the situation called for a compromise.

Last year, we hammered out an agreement: dams would be built instead on the Aqua Fria and Verde Rivers, instead of at the Orme site. I am proud to have played a part in that process, and I'm pleased with the candid give-and-take that let us arrive at a fair decision. It's that kind of effort that has kept this project moving, and on schedule.

The Tucson Section of CAP will be coming along next year or so and Interior Secretary James Watt and the rest of the Arizona congressional delegation agreed with my recommendations about the size and location of the end of the Tucson Section of the pipe (which will be on the San Xavier Indian Reservation). And the Bureau of Reclamation is hard at work studying several Tucson routes for the pipeline.

Tucson needs the CAP to buy time. Breathing time. It can provide enough of a margin to allow the city to ease up on pumping of the underground water supply, and give that reservoir a chance to replenish itself.

The CAP is not a "greening of the desert's" project, and it isn't even the whole water answer. It is part of the answer. It will give Tucson and Arizona a critical second chance. With strong state and local efforts to manage our water in the future, it can work.

Dam Safety Reclamation Act

Floods that ravaged Phoenix a couple of years ago came as a result of unusually heavy rains, coupled with a solid

winter snow high in the northern mountains. The rain and an early Spring thaw sent the Salt River over its banks and floodwaters rushing across Phoenix.

Luckily, injury to people was far less than damage to property, but those floods left Phoenicians especially mindful that the two principal dams on the Salt, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Stewart Mountain, are situated close to the city.

The Roosevelt, erected on the Salt River east of Phoenix, was the first-federally-financed dam built in the United States. Its construction forever altered the future of Phoenix, and it remains critically important to the city today.

Since the first construction project, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has built dozens of dams throughout the country like the Roosevelt (and the Stewart Mountain), most of them in the West. And today, many of those dams, including the two above Phoenix, are in need of repairs.

Back when both dams were built, engineers had a limited amount of weather and earthquake-forecasting information at their disposal. But they used what they had at hand, and both dams were designed accordingly. In the 70 years since, much more complete and sophisticated information has become available, and engineers have now revised their thinking about how much water might fill the Roosevelt or Stewart Mountain reservoirs at a given moment.

Engineers now believe that the Roosevelt dam ought to be increased in height, both to strengthen the dam and to allow the safe release of water through spillways. The engineers also believe that the spillways of the Stewart Mountain dam need to be enlarged.

Congress authorized $100 million for dam repairs in 1978. But since that time, the Bureau of Reclamation has identified more dams that need work and construction costs have increased. Along with other members of the Arizona congressional delegation, I introduced legislation in this Congress to allow for the additional money to make the needed repairs on all the dams, including the Roosevelt and Stewart Mountain.

I consider this legislation absolutely vital and will work for passage this year.

Southern Arizona Waters Rights Settlement Act

Imagine turning on your faucet, filling a glass with water and realizing that you just added $100 to your water bill. Consider a $500 shower, a $900 bath or a $1,200 car wash. Far-fetched? Yes, but not very.

Since 1975, Tucson and Pima County have faced a lawsuit brought by the United States to protect water owned by the Papago Indians.

That suit named almost 1800 local water users as defendants, and until the question of how much water the Papagos are entitled to is settled, it will be impossible to map a good water future for the Greater Tucson area.

What if the suit, on the other hand, were not settled out of court?

A court case could drag on for years -- time is expensive, and a court could rule that the mines, farms and the city should shut their wells so the Indians could have their water. The future of the city and commerce could literally die of thirst.

That's why I believe it's pretty important for the Congress to act quickly on a piece of legislation called the Southern Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act, which I introduced last year. It came as a result of a truly extraordinary effort on


 
the part of all the water users -- miners, farmers, city dwellers, Indians and many, many more -- who sat down together and hammered out this "out-of-court" settlement.

The legislation, I believe, is a landmark. As far as I know, it represents the first time that a community rolled up its sleeves and sat down to work out a plan that voluntarily reached an agreement with an Indian tribe.

I'm proud of this bill because of what it represents -- another example of a good, clean, Arizona spirit of cooperation -- and I was pleased that the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee reported it to the full House of Representatives not long ago.

* * *

The preceding summaries may offer some idea about how complicated water can become. Moving water from one point to another (or, sometimes, just keeping it in one place) can be a complex process. It has occupied more of

Archaeologists tell us that deserts are "climatic accidents," places stripped bare of most of the familiar signs of life, but places where nature has moved with astonishing adaptability. Animals survive with remarkably little moisture, and many hunt only at night to avoid the heat. Nature has sent a clear signal: life must sustain itself carefully in the desert, because it is a place with fragile and limited resources.

We can successfully transport our resources from one place to another. We can build big pipes like the Central Arizona Project, big dams, mammoth reservoirs. We can, to some extent, control floods and harness raging rivers to our own purposes.

But in the final analysis, what happens to Arizona's water will be up to each of us.

State government proved it can be responsive when it passed a responsible and sensible law to manage groundwater.

Click to enlarge
my time in public service than any other single issue.

Still, all of the work, all the projects, all the dams and all the federal help won't spell answers to Arizona's water questions.

When the federal role in this latest round is finished, the role for state and local governments will just begin, for it's at that level that Arizona's water future will really be decided.

Those first Spaniards who settled in the Tucson basin had no need to worry about dwindling groundwater supplies. In their time, the Santa Cruz still flowed above ground.

When the first Anglo farmer began digging irrigation ditches near Phoenix in 1867, he had no need to worry that his simple task would someday become a huge, complicated and costly undertaking.

It has fallen to our generation to see not only a dry Santa Cruz River snaking through West Tucson, but to see cracks in the land, where a dropping underground water supply has caused the earth to slip under its own weight.

Folks in Tuscon proved that large numbers of people, all pulling together, can make a huge difference when it comes to conservation. The city's "Beat the Peak" program became so successful it has been used as a model elsewhere.

The story of Arizona and water is a long one, but it really is the story of people and water. If our water future is somewhat unclear, our people future is not: population planners estimate that Phoenix is to attract another million residents by the end of the century, and Tucson is to double its population of 500,000 at the same time.

As chairman of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, I'm proud to have been able to play a part in helping to guide Arizona's water future, and in seeing that all the planning and work stays on track and on schedule. All of it translates into some form of water security for our state in the years ahead.


 
In Search of Former POWs
The Former Prisoner of War Benefits Act of 1981 provides for service-connected eligibility and medical benefits for certain disabilities. The law calls on the Veterans Administration to seek out former POWs and to provide each with information on benefits to which they may be entitled. Letters asking assistance in locating and identifying former POWs have been sent to all veterans service organizations, state directors of veterans affairs and associations of former military unit members. Approximately 40 percent of the nearly 100,000 former POWs were on VA compensation rolls before the law took effect on October 1, 1981. Information about former POWs should be relayed to the VA Regional Office in Phoenix by calling 622-6434, if the call is made from Tucson, or 800-352-0451, if the call is made from a community other than Tucson.


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