Water wars more likely in rural areas in West than in urban areas
- Payson, Prescott, Sedona and Williams are rural Arizona areas considered
ripe for conflict.
July 9, 2003
PHOENIX, AZ - Rural areas in the West are facing more of a water crisis
than urban sites that have seen explosive growth, state water experts
A lack of storage, old equipment and little funding have left rural
areas with critical water shortages that lead to conflicts, said Sid
Wilson, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, which delivers
Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson.
"While we have explosive population growth in Maricopa, Pima
and Pinal counties, we can handle water issues there because we have
supplies, equipment and money," he said.
Wilson and other experts spoke at a conference here organized by the
Department of the Interior.
It was the first of eight conferences scheduled this summer as part
of an initiative called "Water 2025: Preventing Crisis and Conflict
in the West."
Interior Secretary Gale Norton kicked off the initiative with a report
released in May that mapped areas prone to water conflicts before
The report identified the Rio Grande and the Colorado River as areas
of increased competition for water resources.
Western "hot spots" ripe for water wars include Las Vegas
and Reno, Nev.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Denver; Houston; Salt Lake City;
The chance of conflict is smaller but still "substantial"
in Phoenix; Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif.; and San Antonio, the
Bureau of Reclamation officials said hot spots were identified by
their rainfall, water storage capacity and potential new resources.
Those factors were overlaid with population trends and water needs
of endangered species.
Norton has said she doesn't want to curb the West's explosive growth,
but instead identify and implement water-use solutions. That's where
the state conferences come in.
Federal officials are seeking state input on solutions to help avoid
catastrophic water wars like the one in Oregon's Klamath Basin in
Armed federal marshals had to be summoned to keep angry farmers from
prying open irrigation headgates that were shut to protect endangered
Similar conflicts could easily happen here, said Herb Guenther, director
of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
He said water wars in rural areas will likely occur when people want
water that's being used in habitat for endangered or threatened species.
Another of the department's main concerns is that explosive growth
in the West - Arizona's population increased by 40 percent during
the 1990s and Nevada's grew by 66 percent - will exacerbate the region's
urban water problems.
But state officials said rural areas are in worse shape.
Roger Manning, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users
Association, said Payson, Prescott, Sedona and Williams were rural
Arizona towns ripe for water conflict.
"Williams has severe problems with water supply," he said.
"But there is a new camp being constructed nearby and plans to
pump groundwater to an artificial lake to support the camp. There's
something wrong with the planning process there."