Posted 11:00 p.m. MST
At a conference hosted by Arizona Common Sense Thursday, speakers talked about the pressure Yuma county is under to sell or lease its water rights.
“It becomes a highly contested issue on who gets the their fair share and when,” said Herb Gunther, former director of the Department of Water Resources, “especially if the system is short." States such as california have a growing population. Combine that with water shortages, and leaders are in a bit of a frenzy.
In the 1960s, Arizona won a case against the Golden State over the rights to water—showing the demand not only comes from other states, but from within Arizona.
In January, Arizona house speaker Andy Tobin introduced a bill which would allow Regional Water Augmentation Authorities to establish and have more access to the river.
Shortage or not, an Arizona Revised Statuses title shows Yuma has the ability to transfer water rights but not an obligation.
"We enjoy the right to very significant senior water rights compared to the rest of Arizona,” said Gunther. “Of course we treasure those rights."
Agriculture is the name of the game in Yuma County. Without water it means game over. Gunther says the real challenge is in "trying to make [other states’] ends meet without having to sacrifice the economy of Yuma."
The county has rights to one million acre-feet of high-priority water. One-acre-foot is almost 326 thousand gallons of water.
"So we will never see cuts to our water supply. Or if we do the rest of the world is in big trouble. People of ACS are very much against the bill that House Speaker Tobin introduced. They say even if it does not pass, they believe what's known as "water grabs" will continue to threaten Yuma county.