SocraticGadfly: Aridzona still refuses to face water reality

July 25, 2022

Aridzona still refuses to face water reality

A year ago, I blogged about the first water cuts the Bureau of Reclamation announced for the Lower Colorado River states of Arizona, Nevada and California — and on this first round, mainly Aridzona, somewhat Nevada and not really California. Above, a drying Lake Powell, surrounded by summer-angry redrock, sits behind Glen Canyon Dam. That was about a decade ago, and the "bathtub ring" both there and at Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam have only gotten worse since then.

At that time, the feds announced that Lake Mead had fallen below the level to trigger the first round of water usage cuts next year. Within the three Lower Basin states (Google, and/or click the Wiki link, if you don't understand the Colorado River Compact), for a variety of reasons, the cuts hit Aridzona much more than Nevada. They don't hit California at all, though the next round, if triggered, will hit all three states. 

Meanwhile? Early predictions for US winter weather said that drought would remain and that the lower half of the West will also have dry weather, and these have panned out. Those 2023 cuts WILL happen. BuRec all but said so last month. I blogged about that here.

(Update: BuRec has indeed now dropped what I called a "semi-hammer." But, it's not a full hammer, or even that close. The question is, here, should it have been a full hammer? Will Aridzona continue to be scofflaws, so to speak? Will not dropping a full hammer make their intransigence even worse as the clock ticks to the 2026 expiration of the Compact?)

The first cuts looked to hit ag first.

But, what about urban water? The Aridzona Lege, several years ago, required new residential developments to prove they had a 100-year sustainable water supply. But, the language is loophole-ridden and is as much Jell-O as the Paris climate accords (which were similarly deliberately made so by Dear Leader and Xi Jinping). But, what about water banking? Well, Nevada (I think) is claiming that it's OK in part due to water banking. But, what if, in reality, such an account is already overdrawn? This is not like the federal government budget deficit, where you ignore it, or print more simollians if you have to. There is no more water to "print."

In addition, as of a couple of years ago, at least, it seems Aridzona did not have any withdrawal structure for water banked from the CAP. Since some of that water was banked for the state of Nevada? Erm, see above! In addition, per this piece, water banking was started for two reasons: one, as is true with most things Aridzona and water, as a reaction to those damned water-greedy Californians. Second, it was foisted as an idea for interstate water-banking and resale, as in, "we'll give those water-greedy Californians water if they pay us enough." But, it's hard to do that one, too, if you don't have a good mechanism for withdrawing water from the bank. See above! (The Wiki link also has thumbnail information on Aridzona's history of water animosity toward California.)
Robert Glennon, the University of Arizona prof who wrote the Conversation piece, agrees with me that cities and developers likely aren't yet going to smell the coffee.

More proof? This piece from the New Yorker, about Rio Verde Foothills, which bills itself as "North Scottsdale." It's sad and disgusting and schadenfreude all three.

  • People drilling 1,000-foot water wells — and hitting dry holes.
  • Others, who have been getting water delivered to underground cisterns, getting cut off. The city of Phoenix cut off deliveries to New River in 2018. And Scottsdale is cutting off Rio Verde Foothills next year.
  • Meanwhile, MOAR HOUSES are being built. One loophole in that 100-year requirement? Applies to developments of five or more houses. So, developers submit four-house systems, get them approved by county commission, and do the same two weeks later, lather, rinse, repeat.
  • Some homeowners want to start a Domestic Water Improvement District. To others? That's GUMMINT! Might TAX US! So, they want to have an upgraded agreement with a private water hauler. One problem? Only a water district, not a private hauler, can buy "second tier" water.
  • Meanwhile, MOAR HOUSES are being built. 
Per Ed Abbey's "growth for growth sake is the theology of the cancer cell"? On the other side of Phoenix, Maricopa, now an exurb of upper-middle-class white flight (Pinal County was about 55-45 Dem in the late 1990s, now 55-45 Republican) is 70,000 and mushrooming. Didn't even exist 20 years ago. 
For an excellent in-depth look at the long-term problem and possible "solutions" (which will NOT revert us back to pre-2000 status), and which take into account the full Law of the River, see this Science mag study. (Hell will freeze over or Ed Abbey will rise from the dead before that much in the way of cuts happens without heavy federal intervention, likely coupled with massive state-vs-state lawsuits, launched by the Aridzona whose obstructiveness put it behind the Colorado River 8-ball decades ago in the first place.)

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