The following is the author’s opinion and analysis:
Just like a Ponzi scheme fails when the economy goes sour and people want their money back, so is Arizona land trading. Only in this case it is not the dollars that are lost, but the water.
There are always technological “fixes” being proposed, even planned, for future water supplies. At one point it used atomic bombs to build a canal from the Columbia River to Nevada. Another was towing icebergs to the Pacific coast (if there will still be icebergs in a few hundred years). Desalination of water from the Gulf of California has been a scam for over 50 years. There have always been unusual ideas.
Unfortunately, Republican-led business interests in Arizona have always been crooks. Remember when Elizabeth Holmes and her people in Theranos blinded the Arizona leadership with a comprehensive blood test from a drop of blood? She goes to jail. Remember when Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order allowing Uber to test self-driving cars in Arizona? A pedestrian died in Tempe in 2018. Remember the natural gas-powered car fiasco in 2000, when Republican Jeff Groscost passed legislation to give huge incentives to those who switched their gas-powered cars to alternative fuels? It cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
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The slow-motion trainwreck of water availability has been known for decades. The earliest comprehensive book on this coming wreck was Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, published in the early 1990s. In 2011, James Lawrence Powell’s Dead Pool warned of future water overallocation. Just a few years ago, Kathleen Ferris and Sarah Porter’s report, “The Myth of Safe-Yield: Pursuing the Goal of Safe-Yield Isn’t Saving Our Groundwater,” showed that the Groundwater Management Act’s (GMA) goal for safe yield was one Mirage.
The information is out there to show that groundwater and surface water are unavailable for future population growth in Arizona. But here we are – stuck in the same big money-making cycle that finally can’t go any further.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Ned Warren was, in his own words, the self-proclaimed “godfather” of rural swindles in Arizona. He knew that Arizona has always been a land of moon-promising scammers who didn’t deliver, allowing the quick-money artist to reap the rewards, particularly selling land without water.
What Ned Warren hasn’t done is make his hoaxes legal. While the 1980 GMA was only a start to address water availability, it was still too strict for developers. So the Republican leadership formed the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CARGD). The CAGRD acts as a credit card, allowing developers to build now and pay off the debt, or essentially privatize today’s profit and socialize future spending.
The Feds can’t help us. Given that about 46% of the CAP’s water in Arizona is controlled by the tribes, believe that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, will enforce a reduction in water with no compensation to the tribes will that have done this? higher priority to save Lakes Powell and Mead?
Less than a hundred years from now, when Saddlebrooke becomes a ghost town, when Goodman Water developments like Eagle Crest dry up, when Metro Water can’t supply water for the huge planned developments in the southern Avra Valley, when Green Valley turns brown and when The Power Elite of Phoenix forces Tucson Water to stop CAP water “rolling” to Oro Valley and Vail because there isn’t enough we will know the greatest con game in Arizona history is over.
And unlike the $700 billion taxpayer bank bailout of 2008 from which we are recovering, Arizona taxpayers and taxpayers will be left pretty dry with little hope for future water supplies.
Matt Somers has lived in Arizona for almost 65 years, is a community activist and graduated from the University of Arizona in 1983.