Arizona Water for the Middle East?

Water in Arizona – Is it being shared with all Arizonans and conserved for the
future, or is it being misused to the benefit of the Middle East?
These are troubling times when thinking about the strain on our water resources,
especially considering the years of struggle to ensure Arizona maintained a
consistent water supply.
More than a decade before achieving statehood, people moving to the Territory
of Arizona fought long and hard for a consistent, reliable source of water. This
is not an opinion. It is a fact.

[See Arizona’s water timeline below]

Leaders of our Country understood the importance of water to ensure a future in
the west. Arizona fought long and hard to gain water rights after the depletion
of groundwater caused subsidence and large fissures in the southern part of the
state. So why after all those hard-won battles for water, and more recently years
and years of drought, would the Arizona State Land Department and the
Arizona Department of Water Resources (AZ DWR) allow Saudia Arabia to
take as much groundwater as they would like while leasing land for a minimal
Following the Groundwater Act of 1980, and the formation of the AZ DWR
Arizona’s leaders were charged with ensuring wells would be approved,
groundwaters would be monitored and we would replenish what was used.
Following construction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the 1996 Arizona
Water Banking Authority was established. After this Act was passed both the
CAP and the Salt River Project (SRP) began recharging groundwater. Thus,
ensuring both short-term and long-term water supplies for Arizona.
People of Arizona cannot dig a new well or even a deeper well without
approval. Owning land doesn’t guarantee water availability.
So again, how did Saudi Arabia gain unfettered access to our hard-won water?
The irresponsible approval of allowing the Middle East unfettered access to our
waters completely undermines all of these great and threatens to jeopardize
Arizona’s future greatly.
Today, after more than 23 years of drought, we are in our second year of
reduced water apportionments from the Colorado River [].
With continued low levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead, we are in danger of

future water cuts. Due to these restrictions our Arizona farming and ranching
community is 100% restricted from CAP water and several communities are
without a reliable water source. Yet, fields of alfalfa are grown to provide feed
to cattle in Saudi Arabia – draining our groundwater – for next to nothing.

How is this okay? How did this get approved?

If you consider the costs to building infrastructure such as Roosevelt Dam and
the Central Arizona Project, plus the costs to replenish groundwater, not to
mention what the Government will be paying Arizona farmers to not plant
crops, what is the actual cost of this grievous misuse of our precious waters?
Our early leaders understood the importance of water not only to make these
desert lands habitable, but to our future. However in 2015, all of these hard-won
battles were appear to have been forgotten by our Arizona leadership when farm
lands were used to grow water-wasting crops for Saudi Arabia – a practice that
is banned in their own lands.
That poor decision will weigh heavy on us for years to come. It may also cause
us to lose a great apportionment of water permanently. This is not acceptable.
Those of us with the Southwest Water Conservation board – a group of citizens
interested in our great state’s future – are initiating a call to action.
Write to the Arizona Attorney General to ensure she is following through with
efforts to end Saudi Arabian farming in Arizona.
Additionally, learn more about Arizona’s apportionment of the Colorado River
and future reductions. Send your comments on the Colorado River to the
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation BOR.

Do not miss the opportunity for your voice to be heard.

Visit the BOR’s website for more information:

Highlights of Arizona’s Water History
Late 1800s to early 1900s – Arizona is a territory with high use of groundwater
for mining and agriculture that leads to depletion of groundwater and the cause
of subsidence and fissures in the southern part of the state.
1902 – President Theodore Roosevelt signs the Reclamation Act of June 17.
 The basic concept is that Federally-approved construction of large
infrastructure would be built to enable people to “reclaim arid lands for
human use” (create a consistent, reliable water source) and encourage
Western settlement.
 Water users would repay construction costs later.
1902 – Reclamation Act allows for establishment of Reclamation Service within
the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in July 1902.
1902 – Reclamation built Roosevelt Dam in the Territory of Arizona of the U.S.
(prior to statehood). This dam formed the largest in-state lake in Arizona
1903 – The Salt River Project is created to manage the waters from Roosevelt
Lake and other dams being planned along the Salt and Verde Rivers
1907 – Reclamation Service becomes stand-alone agency under the Department
of Interior (DOI) – The Bureau of Reclamation (
1912 – Arizona becomes the 48th state in the union on February 14, 1912
1922 – The Law of the River established for the Colorado River – 7 State
Compact through the Colorado River Compact of 1922 (amended over the
 Upper Colorado River Basin – Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New
 Lower Colorado River Basin – Arizona, Nevada and California
 The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people and irrigates
nearly 5.5 million acres of agricultural lands (
1925 – Local farmers begin plans to build “Lake Pleasant Dam” – effort was led
by William Beardsley and designed by Carl Pleasant. D. Waddell aided in
funding construction of the massive structure – no Federal funds were used. The
dam holds water from the Agua Fria River

1927 – Completion of Lake Pleasant Dam leads to formation of Maricopa Water
District, with the purpose of providing water from the lake to the valley and
farming community. The dam is later renamed Waddell Dam
1955 – Despite construction of several dams in Arizona, there is still high
dependence on groundwater with estimates being in excess of 70% (AZin3)
1968 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Colorado River Basin Act
authorizing construction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP (

  • The CAP would enable Arizona to receive 1.5 million acre feet of Colorado
    River water and reduce reliance on groundwater
    1971 – The Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) was
    established ( The CAWCD is more commonly referred to as th
    CAP. It was put in place to aid in repaying construction costs and to
    manage/operate the water conveyance system as well as deliveries of water
    1973 – The DOI Bureau of Reclamation begins construction of the CAP begins
    1980 – Former Governor Bruce Babbitt signs Arizona’s Groundwater
    Management Act – the state’s most celebrated water management tool
     The Act addresses concerns of high reliance on groundwater
     This Act forms the Arizona Department of Water Resources
     New development in active-management areas must demonstrate an
    assured water supply lasting at least 100 years
     Established a safe yield – groundwater withdrawal cannot exceed annual
    replenish of underground aquifers
    1985 – Decision to not build Orme Dam leads to construction of New Waddell
    Dam – plan 6. The new Earthen Dam stores Colorado River water for the CAP
    as well as the Agua Fria River runoff and to provide flood protection.
    1986 – Legislature enacted the Underground Water Storage and Recovery
    Program to allow entities to store water underground and recover at a later date
    1992 – Historic Waddell Dam breached and New Waddell Dam is in place
    1993/94 – 100-year flood waters test New Waddell Dam – The dam holds true
    and Lake Pleasant reaches full capacity at elevation 1702

1993 / 1994 – the 336-mile Central Arizona Project declared substantially
complete bringing Colorado River waters from Parker Dam (Lake Havasu) to
the terminus southwest of Tucson (1993).
 Agriculture communities unable to repay for the CAP
1994 – Legislature enacted the Underground Water Storage, Savings, and
Replenishment Act – encouraging the use of renewable water supplies instead of
1996 – The Arizona Water Banking Authority was established
1996 – The CAP begins recharging Colorado River water – the CAP Recharge
Program. This allows for renewable surface water supplies to be stored
underground to replenish groundwater and store additional waters “for recovery
during periods of reduced water supply.”
2018 – Per news reports, Saudi Arabi began farming in Arizona after it was
banned to grow water intensive alfalfa in the arid kingdom of Arabi
2019 – Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plans signed. DOI USBR
brings seven states together to sign historic agreement related to the Colorado
River (Lake Powell and Lake Mead at very low water levels) after 23 years+ of
drought and over allocations of waters.
2022 – DOI issues press release announcing actions to protect the Colorado
River System on August 16, 2022. Agency sets 2023 operating conditions for
Lake Powell and Lake Mead.
2022 – January 2022: the Lower Colorado Basin declared the first shortage of
Colorado River water deliveries ( / Arizona reduces
apportionment of Colorado River water by 320 thousand-acre-feet (kaf) per
2019 agreement in Tier 1 Contingency Plan – Colorado River Shortage
2023 – On January 1, 2023, Tier 2a Contingency efforts are implemented to
reduce flows of Colorado River water and leave more water in Lake Mead to
keep water levels from reaching critical levels (dead pool). ( and Arizona’s apportionment of Colorado River water reduced by
592,000 acre-feet (about 21%).
2023 – January 9, 2023, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes “says she wants
to end Saudi Arabian farming operations along the Colorado River within 6
months. (News 12 and The Miner)
2023 – The State of Arizona rescinds two Saudi Arabia well requests in April.

2023 – April 11,2023, The Department of Interior issues press release – “Interior
Department Announces Next Steps to Protect the Stability and Sustainability of
Colorado River Basin” – Three alternatives were identified:
 No action;
 Alternative 1 – reduced releases from Glen Canyon Dam based on priority
of water rights;
 Alternative 2 – Same percentage reductions across all Lower Basin water
UPDATE: The Department of the Interior today announced that it is
temporarily withdrawing the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact
Statement published last month so that it can fully analyze the effects of the
proposal under the National Environmental Policy Act. Reclamation will
then publish an updated draft SEIS for public comment with the consensus-
based proposal as an action alternative. Accordingly, the original May 30,
2023, deadline for the submission of comments on the draft SEIS is no
longer in effect.
2023 – May 22, 2023: The Department plans to finalize the SEIS process later
this year. For more information: Biden-Harris Administration Announces
Historic Consensus System Conservation Proposal to Protect the Colorado
River Basin | U.S. Department of the Interior (


  • Per CAP-AZ, one acre-foot equates to a yearly supply of water for three
    Arizona families.
  • The Colorado River provides water to more than 40 million people in two
    countries, seven states, and 29 Indian tribes. (University of Montana – Center
    for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy)
  • The Colorado River not only provides essential waters, but it is also important
    to the National economy as well. The Colorado River supports $1.4 trillion in
    annual economic activity and 16million jobs in Arizona, California, Nevada,
    Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. (
  • Steps toward water conservation are needed to ensure we do not move to Tier
    3 in 2024 (this would occur if Lake Mead shortage falls even further). Tier 3
    could have a significant impact on Arizona’s apportionment of Colorado River
    Water. (
  • Discussions between DOI BOR and seven states regarding Colorado River
    water continue – agreement still not reached as of March 2023. DOI BOR called
    for public comments due by the end of May. On May 22, 2023, the White
    House issued news release on the Colorado River – calling for withdrawal of
    public comment period.

The SW water conservation opinion was spurred on from numerous news
stories shared on this site uncovering the land leases and water depletion by the
Middle East.

Information on Arizona’s water history obtained from the following sources:
Law of the River – 7 state compact
Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River / drought
Salt River Project
Arizona Department of Water Resources
Colorado River Drought Contingency Planning 
Bureau of Reclamation
Colorado River Basin
Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation – news release
DOI announces actions to protect Colorado River system – Lake Powell & Lake Mead
Bureau of Reclamation 
Desalination & water purification research program
Arizona Department of Water Resources
Arizona Water Facts
Arizona Municipal Water Users Association
Excerpt: “…aquifers contain significant amounts of natural groundwater that acts as the ultimate
buffer against shortage in supplied delivered by the CAP or SRP.”

Tier 2a Colorado River Shortage in 2023
Central Arizona Project
Salt River Project
SRP dam and Lake management

Article on 1980 Groundwater Act:
This Arizona water law was a long shot, but it ended up saving us
AMWUA – One for water
Colorado River Structural Deficit
Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plans – historic agreement in 2019

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