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July 14, 2014


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Unless something is done about the sale of state trust lands to real estate developers, it IS too late.

I watch the water issues closely in Arizona, and I agree with the problems in rural Arizona coming up first and foremost.

Flagstaff after a couple of crappy winters nearly went dry, and quite frankly, the cost of pulling water 35 miles uphill from Red Gap Ranch almost in Winslow is going to leave a mark and a half on their long term lack of growth.

The wildcat subdivisions will eventually succumb to that bane of property values, hauled water.

Further, the first in time and use values waste over conservation outside of the AMAs.

But hey, make it so water is really valued, and you might find it is conserved.

I would note my water bill from da city of phoenix charges me $8 for water, and $71 for everything else on the damned bill (including money for Shurf Joke's Jails).

The upper middle class family uses under 8k gallons a month, including a pool and three people in a big house. No water for most of the landscraping.

Now, is that sustainable- heck yeah. The real question, as you point out above is when we quit wasting water on cotton. A low return, water hog of a crop.

But groundwater- well, look at Pinal County for the fools who think they can build long term on just groundwater- after agriculture has sucked out the first 200 feet of it. Jump those cracks, and ignore your drop until your sewer backs up into your house!

Of course, as you write this, El Nino is coming, and it will drown Arizona again, and the Colorado problems will abate. But California is the future, and running right up to the limits of growth is a zero sum game.

As for the political class paying attention- no way. Short term is the entire game.

The folks who were stable enough to see the long term are long dead, and now you just have the hustlers out for a quick buck.

Nestlé's makes the very best...


A hint of what AZ tribes will do with their allotment.

Gotta disagree with U Jon.
more later.

what can Petra tell Phoenix?
Not Petro
but Petra Jordan

Not much interest in water. Oh well, there is no shortage of beer. Problem solved.

Speaking of Water
and hoses.
Back under Yarnell silence I mentioned fire fighter calenders. There here and they have a female fire fighter. No smoke jumpers?


Side-note: a new reply to Concern Troll has been added in the previous thread, here:


(The gist: high-tech ID cards are not the solution, for logical rather than political or budgetary reasons.)

I seldom employ hyperbole, but I'd have to call this blog entry "awesome" for the breadth, depth, balance, and insight shown. Terrific.

Mr. Talton wrote:

"About 70 percent of Arizona's water was used for agriculture as of the 2000s."

That still seems to be correct: at least, the Arizona Department of Water Resources website gives the figure as 68 percent.

"Yet this doesn't mean the agricultural water is there for the taking. First, many of the farmers' non-CAP water rights are grounded in law. Second, the nominal rights and even past usage may not translate into actual water now and in the future."

If climate change results in precipitation decreases that seriously threaten Arizona's water supply, Arizona will need to face the fact that agriculture is best left to areas with abundant rainfall.

One way to get around legal rights is to impose legal obligations on top of them.

For example, most of Arizona's agricultural irrigation is terribly inefficient. Requiring farms to use efficient drip-irrigation will greatly decrease agricultural use of water, since many farms either cannot afford to upgrade their infrastructure, or else prefer to relocate rather than make this investment. Those who stay and upgrade to efficient irrigation will use vastly less water. All three outcomes lead to a substantial decrease in water use.

I don't know how likely Arizona's legislature is to impose such a solution in the event that shortages increase water prices; but theoretically if not politically, it's a solution.

What is done with the saved water is another question. Mr. Talton suggests allowing the land to return to desert.

A judicious mix of this together with reallocation for development might convince important segments of Arizona's economy to support laws requiring efficient agricultural irrigation, and to lobby the legislature and the governor to take action.

In other words, if the developers and their dependents and allies think they are going to get something out of it, they may possess the political momentum to roll-over legislative opposition. This doesn't rule out partial desertification, but promising them a piece of the pie would be politically constructive.

Side Bar: Ruben since you have that Email Filter problem in religious world, here, I am recommending a book for you knowing how you like SW history.
Terry Dudas U might find it interesting also.


Is todays Supreme court much like it was in 1904?

Emil, you need to understand how the state has been cut out of the ability to do anything to curtail water rights: http://wsp.arizona.edu/sites/wsp.arizona.edu/files/uawater/documents/Fellowship200708/Pullen.pdf

This paper should help your understanding, especially of Proposition 207, and the mandatory regulatory takings compensation that would be due should the state limit any property owner's vested water rights.

Now, this means the state Department of Water Resources has been ultimately neutered anywhere that did not have water use restrictions in place by 2007.

Ooops. We dun did it again.

And no way in hell would the Leg ever do anything that would cost billions of nonexistent tax payer dollars.

Left a response to you repectfully disagree.

'cadillac desert' should be required reading in AZ high school history.

and 'guns, germs and steel'...

Cal - thanks for the tip; I'll look into the subject.

Dave Weiss,I buy used copies of Cadillac Desert and Desert Solitaire and Killing the Hidden Waters and give them to folks I think might read them. Just the first Chapter of Cadillac Desert is highly informative.
And Jared Diamond said something like "The advent of agriculture was the beginning of the decline of man." I agree with that premise as it speaks to farming where the soil in plowed and water is drawn from under the ground

Cadillac Desert opening statement.
a lot of emptiness amid a civilization whose success was achieved on the pretension that natural obstacles do not exist... Thanks to irrigation, thanks to the Bureau [of Reclamation]... states such as California, Arizona, and Idaho became populous and wealthy; millions settled in regions where nature, left alone, would have countenanced thousands at best... what has it all amounted to?... not all that much. Most of the West is still untrammeled, unirrigated, depopulate in the extreme... Westerners call what they have established out here a civilization, but it would be more accurate to call it a beachhead. And if history is any guide, the odds that we can sustain it would have to be regarded as low (pp. 1-3).

Edward Abbey:
Water, water, water . . . There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock. Of water to sand, insuring that wide, free, open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here, unless you try to establish a city where no city should be. — (Edward Abbey, Wilderness Reader)

Regarding Emil and Concern Troll's comments on 19 century laws about agriculture water in the 21st century Mitch Tobin covers this in his book "Endangered, Biodiversity on the Brink" Pages 367 and 368. A good read published 2010.

"The O-otam have lost the Keeper of the Smoke, given up the call of the dream in the night,turned a deaf ear to the voice in the darkness. In lives bunkered by steel, gasoline, electricity, groundwater and cash, they can ignore the desert for a while."

Charles Bowden from, "Killing the Hidden Waters."

Let me see if I’ve got my math right here: SRP deliveries in 2012 = 767K acre-feet. Inflows to SRP = 148K acre feet. That would work out to a difference of 619K acre feet. All of a sudden the 1.5KK acre-feet in storage doesn’t seem too impressive.

I don’t keep up with Arizona weather. But the narrative would imply that there has been four years of drought or near-drought conditions.

It’s always gratifying to be able to agree with the crowd here on something. I agree that the water outlook of Phoenix is perilous. I’d go so far as to say it’s worse than that. But that’s another topic. The root cause of the water situation is climate change. We’re going to disagree on just exactly what that climate change is – mine is that a global cooling event is in progress (but let’s not go there). I can’t tell you how long this is going to last: 10 years? 50 years? 300 years? The “science is settled” crowd can’t tell you either – if in fact they even recognize that cooling events have occurred.

On a more cheerful note: I don’t know that the Ag-Muni allocation has to be an either/or proposition. It would seem that at least 50% of residential water use is returned via the sewage system. This can very economically be treated into what is known as “grey water”. This type of water is not potable and you can’t dump it into a river – but you can pipe it for agricultural and horticultural uses. In my home town of Cocoa , Florida the sewage authority would give you the grey water for free if you paid for the piping to deliver it.

Trivia for no reason at all: Birmingham gets more rain than Seattle. Not much more – but more.

Working our way to extinction, dying of thirst. (my opinion.)

"Religion has failed us because long ago it separated us from Nature, which we now call Our Mother, and made us worship things."

"Science has failed us because it bedded down with wealth, became technocracy, and made us so many things that clutter up our lives."
Charles Bowden in "Desierto, Memories of the Future."

WKG, U seem to be caught up in the belief that man can "mine" resources. To me it is evident we should live "with" the surface of the planet. Many cultures did for thousands of years, extracting nothing from the inner earth but living with what the surface provided.
Of course they did not have I Pads and music plugs stuck inn their ears. A pity!

"The Earth is in great peril due to the coporatization of agriculture, the rising climate crisis, and the ever-increasing levels of global poverty, starvation and desertification on a massive scale. This present condition is not natural, according to Masanobu Fukuoka but a result of humanity's destructive actions.
From "Sowing Seeds in the Desert."
By Masanobu Fukuoka also the author of "The One-Straw Revolution."

Wkg, our current drought is at 18 years and counting.

WKG said:Trivia for no reason at all: Birmingham gets more rain than Seattle. Not much more – but more.

are "you all wet"


I'm doing as my ancestors did.

I bugged out of the desert to the White mountains.

Next, we'll bug out to Colorado.

Rocky Mountain water and pot.

It'll be the pueblo life until the great spirit brings the rains to wash the piles of bones out of the Salt river valley.

@Cal: When I first heard the statement (Seattle vs. Bham rain) my reaction was “BS”. But I checked it out and it is true. Seattle gets a lot of that grey, drizzly kind of rain that goes on for days. When it rains here – it really rains. Had seven inches in one night in my neighborhood a few months ago. Our main concern is too much rain.

@Ruben: 18 years. That would line up with the “pause” in the global warming trend.

@All: I don’t want to be an alarmist, but if I lived in Phoenix I’d have a Rubenesque exit strategy. First thing I’d do is make sure I don’t own any real estate.

WKG: How about a house with wheels?

@Cal: 5th wheel my leading candidate for future.

House on wheels, I know gas, ect.
but at a crippled 74 I cannot backpack across the nation as I once did. I would be the person the tribe left behind so the healthy could survive for another day.
I am slowly lightening my load for more efficiency by giving away my books.
I do have a FIT, a cot and a sleeping bag.

@Cal: Tried to lighten my load too. When I retired back in January I was taking in about 20 books a day and piling them on the counter near our centralized printer station. With a big sign: “Free. Help yourself”. I was taking in my good stuff – no pop novels. They just kept piling up. As near as I can tell young people just do not read. When they do it seems to be juvenile “vampire series” genre stuff.

Water is all about Water Rights. My family owned property in Camp Verde that had a water right dating to 1885. we started selling it when houses were more profitable than alfalfa. the old saying "Water is for fighting - whiskey is for drinking." is still true today.

Ramjet, the Satanist now claim a spot near your old homestead for thier Vortex. As do the New Age folks in Sedona.

Concern Troll wrote:

"Emil, you need to understand how the state has been cut out of the ability to do anything to curtail water rights..."

I took a look at the link you provided. Here's a verbatim quote:

"Proposition 207, a voter initiated ballot measure, entitles a property owners to just compensation if the value of a person’s property is reduced by the enactment of a land use law."

A law requiring farmers to convert to efficient drip irrigation from inefficient flood irrigation does NOT reduce the value of the owner's property. On the contrary, infrastructure improvements might well increase the land's value.

So, in my opinion, Arizona law does not prevent the sort of legal measures I suggested. Of course, I'm not an attorney specializing in water rights or land use law.

Concern Troll also wrote:

"And no way in hell would the Leg ever do anything that would cost billions of nonexistent tax payer dollars."

The legislature recently passed two sets of tax breaks which, according to their own joint budget committee, costs the state $1 billion dollars through their expected life (and what do you want to bet that life will be extended?).

Also, it isn't clear to me that my proposal would carry such a price tag. Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but could you spell this out for me? It's an interesting issue and might be worth a discussion.

The three largest crops grown in az don't lend themselves to drip irrigation, cotton, alfalfa, wheat.

I' m a proponent and practitioner of drip irrigation. We would need to change our major crops. You know how well change is accepted in these parts.

I have been told that Arizona cotton is a very important crop for Dairy Farmers as the cotton seed is about 40 percent protein. And of course alfalfa goes to the cows also. I just returned from the Casa Grande area after lunch with a Spaniard dairy farmer. There are over a 100,000 dairy cows in and around Casa Grande. The Wilcox area in SE Arizona has many more, including Japanese and Portuguese dairy farmers. More dairy farms can be found near Tacna, AZ and on towards Yuma, all these areas suffer from water shortages. I am told and it is less expensive to have a large dairy farm in the Midwest. If you would like to visit these areas, one can see very healthy looking cotton and corn surrounding the dairy farms. Currently the Salt River Gila Indians hold a number of important water rights as a result of congressional legislation


I see that others have filled you in on what it means to become more efficient- spend serious money. Now, the Leg will give tax breaks all day long, but that regulation to force use of drip? That would have to be compensated- now if water costs a lot more, ag will leave anyway, because houses pay more to use the same damned water.

I admit to being an insider on this to some extent, so I can't point to the very specific stuff available without basically outing myself, and since I am vulnerable to the kookocracy, no way.

But trust me, take away any rights that exist, and the regulating body has to pay through the nose. And no way we are going to have any more real regulation at the state level.

Hence my devil will take the hindmost when it comes to water, and many people will learn in the coming decades that their houses are behind some of that wasteful agriculture, and tribal rights, and they will have to pay through the nose to keep the tap on.

Those guys growing cotton will eventually quit, and it will be replaced by more profitable crops- or the water will be sold to the houses.

Concern Troll, Dairy Farming appears to be in trouble in the desert. The midwest is more profitable for Dairy farmers. I think its only a matter of time before Dairy farms begin to shrink in the desert. Of course the bottom line is water and dairy takes a lot of water.
Arizona legislatures have for the most part decided "rights" are more important than regulations. Hence the recent POLS have done as much as possible to weaken state regulatory
agencies. Such as ADEQ, Weights and Measures, etc. One no longer needs a permit to carry a concealed weapon and I know folks that believe they should not have to have a drivers license.
The desert will survive while the human population will shrink until the time of the Seri Indians return

First of all, note that agriculture uses 70 percent of the state's water, but contributes only 1.6 percent of the state's economic output.

Also note that "saving just 10 percent of the water currently dedicated to agriculture could mean water available for urban uses in support of 2 million additional people." (Or, for the same number of people, if climate change reduces available water. See below for sourcing.)

Ruben wrote:

"The three largest crops grown in az don't lend themselves to drip irrigation, cotton, alfalfa, wheat."

Apparently they do. According to the Grand Canyon Institute:

"One Arizona farm, the Howard Wuertz family’s Sundance Farms in Coolidge has used sub-surface drip irrigation for more than 40 years to farm primarily cotton and wheat. Recently, the Wuertzs began using drip irrigation on alfalfa, both conserving water and increasing yields. The drip system, including filter station and injection system for Arizona alfalfa production costs about $2,000 per acre, according to Wuertz, but pays for itself in three to five years."

Something else to consider: pound for pound, cattle raising for beef uses far more water than any other Arizona agricultural sector: about 15,000 liters per kilogram, versus less than 1,000 for fruits and about 300 for vegetables. The alfalfa and hay grown for cattle feed is a high-water demand product, compared to medium-demand products like cotton.

About 4 percent of Arizona farms account for 89 percent of agricultural water use, so it's Big Ag that is the major culprit. Thus, legislation requiring efficient irrigation could exempt the small farmer without sacrificing much water savings. That means anyone with less than 500 acres.

Source: Grand Canyon Institute Policy Paper: "The Third Way": Accommodating Agriculture and Urban Growth.


Concern Troll wrote:

"Regulation to force use of drip...would have to be compensated".

You keep asserting this, but haven't backed up the claim thus far. If there is a precedent in case-law that applies, please cite it, with a link. In no way could this identify you personally, either to the kookocracy or to anyone else.

Emil, excellent points. And I think in addition to Beef cattle you must include alfalfa for dairy cattle. And the dairys themselves use a lot of water.

Incidentally, here's a working link for that Grand Canyon Institute report:


Cal, as to dairy farms, I looked through the fine print (footnotes) in the GCI report referenced above, and it looks like they are very water intensive, though the total number of dairy farms (and thus the total water usage by such farms) is more limited.

"For cattle feedlots, the amount of water allowed is 30 gallons per animal per day, and for a dairy, 105 gallons/day for a lactating animal and 20 gallons/day for a non-lactating

Of course, most dairy cows would be lactating.

Still, one might contrast this with urban water use. Even for the city of Tucson, which has a good conservation record for urban areas in Arizona, per capita use is 130 gallons per day. Of course, that includes all city water use, including industrial, not just residential water use.

The report also gives a footnoted figure for the "water footprint" used by various farming sectors, in a form that makes it even clearer how water intensive cattle farming is:

"This equates to about 4078 gallons of water for every 2.2 pounds of meat. For vegetables, this equates to about 85 gallons for every 2.2 pounds of product and for fruits, 254 gallons for every 2.2 pounds."

I appreciate this post very much, Jon. It is enormously frustrating to watch no-brainer water conservation efforts (covered irrigation canals, anyone?) be ignored by leadership and a populace more willing to pay their monthly Netflix bill than invest in infrastructure that could circumvent the impending drought panic.

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