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.

The Associated Press
Tucson Citizen

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 said yesterday.

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 2025.

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; and Flagstaff.

The chance of conflict is smaller but still "substantial" in Phoenix; Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif.; and San Antonio, the report said.

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 2001.

Armed federal marshals had to be summoned to keep angry farmers from prying open irrigation headgates that were shut to protect endangered fish.

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."


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