Arizona’s #1 Election Issue: Water
To close out my series on environmental issues, I chose to focus on an area that will be the biggest issue in 2024: water.
My nephew in St. Louis recently contacted me after reading a story about a town in Arizona that had run out of water and needed to ship it in. Was that my town? When we decided to move to this rather red state, the first question we asked our realtor was about the water supply. I live in SaddleBrooke, a 55+ community just north of Tucson. Regardless of their political persuasion, people here understand the importance of water.
This issue is growing by leaps and bounds. Three recent stories about Arizona’s water problem hit the national news circuits. The story my nephew read was about Rio Grande Foothills, a town that buys its water from its affluent southern neighbor Scottsdale. However, citing a worsening drought, city officials said they could no longer provide water to the roughly 1,000 residents of the Rio Grande Foothills. “There is no Santa Claus,” said Mayor David Ortega, according to Scottsdale.org. “The mega-drought tells us all – water is not a compassion game.” While proposed subdivisions with six or more lots are required to demonstrate a reliable water source for 100 years in the area, developers have eluded the restriction by building smaller communities of just a few houses.
According to the Arizona Republic, the federal government asked the seven states that share the Colorado River’s water to submit a plan to cut their water use or face mandatory cuts by the end of January. Six of them found a consensus proposal and offered their ideas U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, who has ultimate control over this matter. The seventh — California — the largest water user on the river, is looking to press its rights in court.
This final story wraps up the problem. According to CNN, you can drive along county roads that are little more than dirt paths in Kingman, Arizona. What used to be no more than tumbleweeds and scraggly cactuses are now pistachio trees as far as the eye can see. Corporate megafarms- many owned by foreign governments-were pumping 60% to 72% of the groundwater used there as of 2021. As those farms grow, county and city officials fear the groundwater-their only source of water-can’t support farms of this size. This most politically conservative part of Arizona wants the state to regulate its groundwater. Kingman’s concern over water is starting to outweigh traditional conservative concerns about over-regulation
Reuben Gallegos, a Democratic candidate for Arizona’s junior senate seat in 2024, reminded the audience at the SaddleBrooke Democrat Club’s annual dinner that in Arizona, “Water is for fighting. Whiskey is for drinking.” But seriously, water is life, and it’s Arizona’s most important fight.”
What can an individual do in this fight? A neighbor suggested putting in a rain barrel. I think that’s a good idea.
As always, I look forward to reading your comments.