U.S. Water News Online
PHOENIX -- Fearing possible lawsuits over Colorado River
water allocation, the Central Arizona Project's board has pledged to
contribute at least $200,000 to a legal defense fund created by the
Board members also agreed to match, dollar for dollar, any other
contributions to the fund until the state reaches its goal of $1.5
"I think it's important that we avoid litigation, that we should
go to the table to try to settle these issues," said Maricopa County
board member Paul Hendricks. "But when it comes down to it, I want to
make sure there is enough money to defend our rights."
The state Department of Water Resources, working with the
governor's office, established the defense fund amid fears that
Colorado, Wyoming or other states on the upper Colorado River might
force Arizona into court over questions about how the river is
The department contributed the initial $200,000 and announced
plans to seek additional money from others that rely on the Colorado,
including cities, water providers, home builders and businesses.
The CAP board was expected to support the fund because it oversees
more than half the state's Colorado River allocation and would suffer
the worst losses if the upper river states were to prevail in court.
"The prospect of some litigation is very real," said CAP general
manager Sid Wilson.
Wilson told the board that although the seven river states signed
a framework agreement to deal with some water issues, Arizona still
needs to work out a legal strategy.
At issue, at least among the upper river states, is whether
Arizona and Nevada should be able to take water from in-state
tributaries of the Colorado River without subtracting that water from
Arizona claimed its primary tributary, the Gila River, decades ago
and until recently no one has challenged that use.
If the upper river states won a lawsuit on the issue, Arizona
could lose as much as half the water that flows down the CAP Canal,
taking water from Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties.
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