Water crisis in the West. Central Arizona Project as model for what not to do

Arizona CAP

The Central Arizona Project flows from the Colorado River. Water is pumped uphill, then downhill to Phoenix and Tucson. The CAP transfers water from one basin to another. This basically screws everything up, creating artificial watersheds and increased battles over water, just like similar water projects in California.

Navajo Nation was left out out of CAP negotiations so they opted for coal plants on their land, resulting in environmental and cultural destruction. Large numbers of Navajo and Hopi were forced from where they were living, homes were bulldozed. Those coal plants still supply power for the city of Los Angeles.

Southwest society is based on a false promise of water. The builders of CAP probably knew there wouldn’t be enough water. Lake Mead is now approaching its lowest level ever since it was built. There is now a “structural deficit” of water in the seven states that rely on the Colorado.

The good news is, over and over again when communities approach the water cliff they discover they’ve been wasting water and quickly devise ways to use less. Very few if any communities disappear. Instead, they simply learn to adapt. Fighting is a zero sum game. Instead, collaboration is key and everyone uses less. Yes, gold courses and lawns in desert areas will probably eventually be banned.

Water scarcity is here to say. However, it is manageable.

This week on New Mexico in Focus, we conclude our series on the Water Crisis in the West: Thinking Like a Watershed with a discussion on water law and some potential innovative solutions to the water scarcity issues in the region. NMiF Producer Megan Kamerick speaks with John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal, author and historian Sonia Dickey and Mike Hamman, area manager with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation about the fallout from the Central Arizona Project, new collaborations among unlikely groups to deal with water scarcity and the meaning of watershed after decades of water basin transfers and massive engineering projects.

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