By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer
For years, Arizona water officials have been trying to determine who controls the water drawn from the Colorado River to serve cities and communities in Arizona and southern California.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources, which manages statewide water issues, and the agency which operates the Central Arizona Project, a 336-mile canal that siphons off water from the Colorado River and delivers it to homes and businesses in Phoenix and Tucson, each insist they should hold sway over water management in the region. At issue is namely the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, which regulates groundwater extraction from the state’s aquifers.
Officials from both agencies are grappling with many issues. They are considering the water rights of cities, farmers and Native American Tribes. Also, whether Tribes can initiate their own water systems independently of the canal water that reaches their lands.
“The soul of water management in Arizona” is at stake, Kathy Ferris, a former state water director who sides with her former agency, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, and sits on the governor’s Plenary, told Tucson.com. “Do we want our Colorado River supplies to be managed by parochial interests or do we want it managed by an agency with the outlook for the whole state?” she asked, noting that the CAP serves only three counties, Pima, Maricopa and Pinal.