Yuma Ag and You: Arizona Water Resource Challenges

Bobbi Stevenson-McDermott                    June 26, 2016 publication

 

Wow, we sure had a blast of real Yuma summer heat the last few days! Now we get to wonder what July and August will bring.

I attended a meeting sponsored by the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture entitled ‘Working together to address Arizona water resource challenges. The speaker was Sharon P. Megdal, Ph.D., Director and Professor of the Water Resources Research Center, (WRRC) part of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at the University of Arizona.

Under the topic of complex water management issues, challenges and/or solutions were listed growth and the need for additional supplies (competition); drought. Climate variability-Colorado River Shortage; water-energy-food needs; followed by numerous other hot button topics. Conservation, desalination, water for environmental uses, groundwater depletion and transboundary issues are also on the list. The attendees included growers, master gardeners, irrigation district managers and board members, educators and many already involved in water organizations and committees.

WRRC is a research and extension unit of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and is the designated state water institute, established in 1964 under the Federal Water Resources Research Act. The focus over time has remained relevant to Arizona’s major water issues.

Currently, the mission is to promote understanding of critical state and regional water management and policy issues through research education and outreach. The WRRC holds an annual conference each year with the 2018 conference scheduled to be about agriculture and water in Arizona. For more information, the website for WRRC is www.wrrc.az.edu.

During the discussion of various topic for the 2018 meeting, it was brought up that an adjacent state on the Colorado River had recently passed legislation that essentially said all areas of the state were valuable and together it made that state the destination it is. Wouldn’t it be great if Yuma County water and agriculture could just be accepted for what it is, we have the right to farm, to the land and water, and farmers who respect the resources they work with. Why should southwestern Arizona growers have to worry about keeping their water rights secure instead of focusing on producing quality food for the country and food safety? One of the proposed titles for the 2018 meeting of WRRC was ‘The Future of Agricultural Water in AZ”. While not the intent of the group, any time I see ‘the future of’ in any title, it feels like a threat that I need to defend myself from. The people of Yuma County should be determining the future for the area, not well intended people from elsewhere. I have always felt that when talking about farming and agricultural water, it should be tied to the amount of food, fiber and forage that is returned to the United States and the world. Ms. Megdal did note that food had been added to the list of complex water management issues in 2015. I was amazed that it had taken almost 60 years for food to make the list of the WRRC.

The answers to the challenge of wise use and management of the natural resources we have in Yuma County is important to every citizen. It is our responsibility to keep informed and speak out.