Category: Commentaries

2 not-so-smart things Arizona has done in the name of water

Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed in 2016: “If there’s one thing Arizona is best in the nation at, it’s water.” The governor has good reason to boast about his state’s surprisingly robust record in innovative water policy. Yet the state has stumbled in proposing seawater desalination as a way to obtain additional potable water and failed by allowing our rivers to suffer horrible degradation. Desalination is no magic bullet Plans to import new sources of water face practical, financial and environmental challenges. In a 2012 study, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation concluded that trans-basin diversions and interstate canals fail basic cost-benefit…

6 innovative water policies that helped Arizona grow during a drought

One seldom sees the words “Arizona” and “progressive” in the same sentence. But when it comes to water, Arizona has often been at the cutting edge of legal and policy reform. An arid climate, surging population and declining groundwater tables drove Arizona to be creative. Innovation 1: Slow groundwater use The 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management Act banned the drilling of new wells in areas of the state suffering the greatest water table declines and required developers and municipalities to show that they have an “assured water supply” before they receive permits to break ground for new projects. Innovation 2: Store…

Technology is cropping up in our lettuce fields

In Yuma, Arizona, agriculture has embraced technology to increase yield. In his 1986 classic, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner portrayed agriculture in the Yuma, Arizona, region as a poster child for what’s wrong with how water is used in the West. He sketched a situation that would have amused the cartoonist Rube Goldberg: The Bureau of Reclamation built a hugely expensive desalination plant in the desert, and the water it produced cost $300 an acre-foot so that irrigators could continue to grow federally subsidized surplus crops that cost them $3.50 an acre-foot. Reisner suggested a far cheaper solution: Buy out the…