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Our View: Mohave County is on the right side of water fight

March 13, 2018 GMT

Mohave County has spent a lot of money on water politics over the last couple of years, most of it simply flushing good money after bad. However, recent developments with the Central Arizona Project make it clear that one more trip to the taxpayer well to protect Mohave County’s water interest is probably inevitable — and this time, warranted.

CAP has its eyes on the Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District’s allotment of water from the Colorado River and feigns bewilderment that anyone in Mohave County would balk at the suggestion.

Please. Make no mistake – this deal is bad for Mohave County, crippling the potential for local growth for the benefit of urban dwellers who already suck away much of the surface water out of this region. Mohave County, like the communities CAP serves, also needs to ensure there’s enough water resources here for our own growing population. Once those water rights are gone, it will be tough to get them back, despite what CAP officials may say.

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A couple of big questions are left unanswered, most notably: What does Mohave Valley Irrigation District have to gain by changing its own rules that prevent water from leaving its boundaries? It’s unclear how the local district benefits, but following the money yields some clues about who is pulling the strings. To complete the water transfer, CAP would pay $34 million to a pair of New York City hedge fund firms to purchase seven farms totaling approximately 2,200 acres of farmland. Through that exchange, CAP would get access to approximately 14,000 acre feet of water rights.

A court battle, like we said, is probably inevitable, considering that CAP is determined to move forward despite widespread local opposition. And that’s too bad, because it won’t be cheap. You might recall that Mohave County last year agreed to pay a water lawyer $12,000 a month – that’s $144,000 annually – for legal representation and lobbying service. Additionally, a separate contract with a water lawyer called for an hourly rate of $395 and no ceiling on potential expenditures.

The state legislature needs to step in. Groundwater is also at risk as agriculture uses have increased. Arizona’s populations patterns have changed over the last 40 years, but our approach to water regulation has not. We’re not asking for heavy-handed regulations for rural areas, but something needs to change. A “light” version of the active management areas created in other areas of the state might be one solution.

The bottom line? Water is a precious resource and its exchange shouldn’t be left solely up to the highest bidder.

— Today’s News-Herald