Ex­perts: Yuma water rights se­cure, but vig­i­lance needed

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARA KNAUB @YSMARAKANAUB

Yuma’s water rights are as se­cure as they can get, but lo­cals should re­main vig­i­lant in view of the long­stand­ing drought.

Two lo­cal water ex­perts talked about Yuma’s water rights dur­ing the Yuma County Cham­ber of Com­merce “Good Morn­ing, Yuma!” break­fast Thurs­day. The speak­ers were Tom Davis, man­ager of Yuma County Water Users As­so­ci­a­tion, and Wade No­ble, a water rights at­tor­ney.

“Water is the hot topic in the South­west,” Davis said, adding that it will also be the “hot topic” in the Ari­zona Leg­is­la­ture this year, caus­ing them to spend a lot of time at the cap­i­tal.

The older the rights, the more se­cure the rights, Davis noted. This is im­por­tant as the drought con­tin­ues.

Yuma, which is de­pen­dent on the Colorado River, has the most se­cure rights, he added. Yuma pro­duces 85-90 per­cent of win­ter veg­eta­bles for U.S. and Canada.

No­ble pointed out that Yuma is here be­cause of the river; it’s what brought the first set­tlers, it’s why there are busi­nesses here.

It’s what brings and keeps peo­ple in Yuma, No­ble noted.

The YCWUA, which in­cor­po­rated in 1903, has first out of six pri­or­ity rights and can use as much water as pos­si­ble. Does that mean water is wasted? No, Davis said. Farm­ers can only use so much water. Too much water will harm crops.

The Well­ton Mo­hawk Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict and Drainage Dis­trict and the City of Yuma have third pri­or­ity rights, which No­ble called sig­nif­i­cant.”

He praised the far­sighted city lead­ers who saw the need to make a deal.

While Yuma’s water rights are se­cure for the time be­ing, if the drought reaches se­vere lev­els, those rights might be threat­ened.

Cal­i­for­nia’s deal says that if there ever is a short­age, the Cen­tral Ari­zona Pro­ject, which has fourth pri­or­ity rights, would be cut. But Phoenix is not likely to be cut, No­ble noted.

The prob­lem is that there is not enough water in the Colorado River to meet all the en­ti­tle­ments due to the 18-year drought. Cur­rent plans call for short­age thresh­olds that would trig­ger cuts.

The ques­tion is how far those cuts would go in case of se­vere short­ages and if even­tu­ally they would reach Yuma. But if Yuma’s water rights are ever threat­ened, the case would be taken to court. And Wade said he and other stake­hold­ers would con­tinue fight­ing for water un­til the last drop.

Yuma has to have water. Not only is the econ­omy com­pletely de­pen­dent on it, this area is like no other area in the world. It feeds the U.S. and Canada dur­ing win­ter.

Davis asked at­ten­dees that if they have any con­tacts at the Leg­is­la­ture to let them know.

“We need to stick to­gether,” Davis said.

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