Here on the Parker Strip, we’re Arizonans and we’re Californians.
The river we call home straddles the state line joining these two great states. Our diverse community lives on both sides of the river and holds many connections to the metropolitan areas on either side of us: to Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire and San Diego to our west, and to the Phoenix Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Tucson to the east.
We’re interested in the news in both states, our friends and families are on both sides, and what happens in the economies of both affects us too. River culture is a hybrid culture, with the flavor of the two states running through it. When the main road connecting Arizona and California gets closed, we feel it.
So when it comes to water rights – the fight over this river and the fresh water it carries – we don’t have a horse in the race, except that we’re concerned that this precious resource is managed well and serves the southwestern United States in a sustainable way.
Anxiety is escalating. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey says he thinks California may try to take Arizona’s water through federal action of some kind, preparations for which some suspect may already be happening, shrouded in secrecy. But the Daily Sun reports that this may be unlikely:
“Outside Arizona, this view is disputed by many water experts. Four say Arizona has no reason to worry about a California water grab. It’s ‘ludicrous’ to suggest California could undo the historic contract divvying up Colorado River water that was signed by seven governors and the president, says Patricia Mulroy, a researcher who used to run Las Vegas’ water utility. And so far, Arizona officials have offered no evidence California even plans to make a run at [Arizona] water.”
From Parker Dam, two aqueducts snake out through the desert in opposite directions, the Metropolitan Water District taking water into Southern California and the Central Arizona Project taking it into central and southern Arizona. The water they carry today isn’t enough. More stringent conservation efforts are taking shape, and restrictions on water usage are being imposed in many places. But the future is uncertain. And in that political climate, authorities are in great need of answers, so water rights are a hot commodity.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes in Parker has the most senior water rights on the Colorado River, according to the Tribes’ special attorney for water Dr. Margaret J. Vick, who is an expert on Colorado River law. Over the past several months, as the Tribes have commemorated 150 years of the CRIT reservation, Chairman Dennis Patch has been reminding his people of the need to protect their water, and to exercise good judgement in how it is used and managed. Like Ducey, Patch says there is a risk that those who need it most will try to grab it.
Good water management is a message that all authorities are echoing, with less supply and more demand than ever before for the water of the Colorado River.
And as water has become headline news again in California and Arizona, here on the Parker Strip we continue to enjoy this precious resource, not only for the way it comes out of our faucets, but as the beautiful oasis that lies at the center of life here.