Central Arizona Project

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The Central Arizona Project (CAP) "is designed to bring about 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water per year to Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties," according to its website. "It is a 336-mile long system of aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines and is the largest single resource of renewable water supplies in the state of Arizona." [1] It is run by a municipal corporation, or "quasi-governmental entity," called the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD). [2]

CAP was a founding corporate member of the Water Policy Institute (WPI), a think tank "bringing together industry leaders ... to address water supply, quality and use issues." Other founding members include BP and GE Water. [3]

Water shortage predictions

There are "predictions that a shortage of Colorado River water could be declared by Central Arizona Project managers as soon as 2011," according to the Tucson Citizen. "The declaration of a shortage would mean cuts based on priority and the amount used, not allocated, [Tucson Water spokesman Mitch] Basefsky said. So Tucson drove hard to use all it could, and pumping the water back into the ground counted as use. Now the city likely won't buy the full allocation this year [2009] and next. The shortage declaration is now expected in 2013 at the earliest, Basefsky said, and officials hope that will allow Tucson to use its full allocation just in the nick of time." [4]

A 2008 study by San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that "climate change and a growing demand for water" could result in "a 50 percent chance that lakes Mead and Powell will dry up by 2021, and a 10 percent chance the lakes will run out of usable water by 2013," in addition to "a 50 percent chance the reservoirs will no longer be able to generate hydropower by 2017." The Associated Press reported that, "if Lake Mead water levels drop below 1,000 feet, Nevada would lose access to all its river allocation, Arizona would lose much of the water that flows through the Central Arizona Project Canal." CAP's deputy general manager, Larry Dozier, called the study's findings "absurd." [5]

Energy and water

"Perhaps nowhere in Arizona is the water-power connection on display better than along the 336-mile Central Arizona Project canal, a water-conveyance system so big it takes more than half a power plant just to operate," wrote The Arizona Republic. Concern about energy's reliance on water and vice-versa is because "drought or climate change could pinch water flows, driving up the price of water for energy providers, which use it to generate electricity and cool power plants. The energy providers, in turn, would raise their rates, increasing costs for water providers, which need the power to treat and distribute water. That cycle of rising costs would continue, trapping consumers in the middle with higher water and power bills." [6]

CAP "buys blocks of power from the Navajo Generating Station in Page, a coal-fired plant that draws water for its cooling process from the Colorado River at Lake Powell. ... CAP officials have always known that the plant wouldn't last forever, and they have planned to seek replacement power sources for the future. But before the station wears out, it could be subject to new emission taxes or limits on its output aimed at curbing greenhouse-gas pollution. Such additional financial burdens would raise energy costs for the canal." [6]

Environmental impact

A 2008 academic study on the impact of human-engineered water flows, conducted by Arizona State University researchers, found that CAP's "pumping of ground water has dropped the water table 90 meters and connected surface and subsurface flows ... 'having the unintended effect of increasing the flux of NO3 [nitrate] through urban waterways by returning nitrogen leached from historic fertilizer applications to surface flows.'" The researchers expressed concern about the impact on water-dwelling species of increased nitrate levels. [7]

Lobbying and public relations

The Central Arizona Water Conservation District, which runs CAP, retained two registered lobbyists, as of February 2009: Robert S. Lynch, on clean air and water, nuclear, Superfund and "government" issues; and John J. Rhodes, III, on natural resources and budget issues. [8]

In 1997, CAP used the Phoenix-based PR firm Robb & DeMenna. [9]

In the 1980s, the lobbying firm Bracy Williams & Co. was retained by the Southern Arizona Water Resources Association, "a group of water users urging the completion of the Central Arizona Project," according to National Journal. [10]


CAP is managed by the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors: [2]

Contact information

Mailing address: PO Box 43020, Phoenix, AZ 85080
Physical address: 23636 N 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85024

Phone: 623.869.2333
Fax: 623.869.2678
Website: http://www.centralarizonaproject.com

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. "Welcome," Central Arizona Project website, accessed April 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Board of Directors," Central Arizona Project website, accessed February 2009.
  3. Press release, "Water Industry Leaders Launch Water Policy Institute to Address Current Challenges: Christine Todd Whitman to serve as chair; Hunton & Williams lawyer as director," Hunton & Williams, June 4, 2008.
  4. Carli Brosseau, "City's aging water mains targeted for more fixes," Tucson Citizen (Arizona), February 3, 2009.
  5. Amanda Lee Myers, "Researchers say 2 key Western storage reservoirs could dry up by 2021," The Associated Press, February 14, 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Shaun McKinnon, "Power can't be generated without water, especially the power needed to move water," The Arizona Republic (Phoenix), December 7, 2008.
  7. Arizona State University, "Artificial Water Systems Create Unintended Consequences," States News Service, September 3, 2008.
  8. "Central Arizona Water Conservation District," Lobbyists.info (sub req'd), accessed February 2009.
  9. "Navajo Nation hires PR firm from Phoenix," Navajo Times, February 13, 1997.
  10. "This Lobbying Firm Embraces All Approaches," The National Journal, January 14, 1984.

External resources

External articles