People In Arizona Are About To Face The West’s First Major Water Crisis
Farmers in Pinal County, Arizona, knew they were taking a risk nearly two decades ago when they agreed to be among the first people to lose water from the Colorado River if there were a shortage.
“They were talking about charging us full cost for water, and farmers just couldn't afford that,” Arnold Burruel said, looking at the concrete canal slicing a blue ribbon through the dusty landscape. To get a cheaper supply, farmers signed a shorter-term agreement, knowing they were betting on how long water would last.
The canal near Burruel’s farm in Eloy, Arizona, is a tiny piece of the Central Arizona Project, a vast 336-mile network of pumps, tunnels, and pipelines that transports close to 500 billion gallons of water each year from the Colorado River. CAP moves this immense amount of water across the desert and 3,000 feet uphill to Arizona’s densely populated central corridor, where 80% of the state’s residents live. Transporting so much water makes CAP the largest power user in the state.