Lake Powell

Lake Powell borders Arizona and Utah.

The big news this week was the Big Boy train rolling through Pinal County with a stop in Casa Grande.

It’s a good thing the historic steam engine didn’t need to take on water, because we don’t have any to spare.

According to a newly released analysis by the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Pinal will exceed its available groundwater supply over the next 100 years.

The department’s data indicates the Pinal County region faces a shortfall of more than 8 million acre-feet of water.

The shortage will hinder economic development as well as the quality of life of many who already live in the county. The problem is no one outside of the county seems to care, as if Pinal was just an island somewhere between the thriving metro areas of Phoenix and Tucson.

Nothing is going to get accomplished until there’s a statewide understanding that water is in limited supply and that people need to be accounting for what they’re taking and how they’re using it.

Even those on an ad hoc committee of state lawmakers created by Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, seem to understand that.

“We can sit here and talk ‘til hell freezes over and we won’t get anything done. We just won’t,” said Rep. Noel Campbell, R- Prescott, at a meeting last week in Casa Grande. “I mean, I’m not a pessimist about it, that’s just the political beast here. So it takes leadership. It takes somebody to crack some heads. You don’t make an omelet without cracking eggs.”

The governor and the power bases in Maricopa and Pima counties need to understand that Pinal is the canary in the coal mine. What happens here is going to impact them. The fact the major growth areas in Pinal are along the county lines bordering the two metro areas can’t be ignored. If there isn’t enough water for residents to live in Gold Canyon, San Tan Valley, or Saddlebrooke, then economic growth in the metro areas will also be curtailed.

The next meeting of Cook’s ad hoc committee is Oct. 21 in the Board of Supervisors chambers in Florence. Cook has invited anyone with ideas to express them.

“The solution to the problem we are facing needs to come from the local stakeholders and leaders on the ground level, not a top-down approach,” Cook said. “I would like to see someone step up and lead a local effort to address shortages in Pinal County so that together we can work toward a long-term solution that is supported by the people closest to the issue.”

Casa Grande City Councilman Dick Powell has an idea, and he has the name to back it up.

He thinks we can solve Arizona’s water problems, and at the same time curb flooding along the Mississippi River, by building a cross-country pipeline that would siphon off floodwaters and dump them in, say, Lake Powell, where it can be stored and distributed to states and communities served by the Colorado River.

Of course the cost would be astronomical.

According to reporting by staff writer Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa this week, a proposed 140-mile pipeline in Utah, that would transport water from Lake Powell to St. George, is estimated to cost as much as $1.2 billion, or about $12.5 million per mile. The distance from Souix City, Iowa, above the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, to Green River, Wyoming, the most logical route for Powell’s pipeline, is about 800 miles.

You do the math.

But before you dismiss Powell’s idea, understand that we are building a wall along the 1,954-mile border with Mexico that is estimated to cost $21.6 billion, according to Republicans. Others say it will cost much more.

It’s a good thing Mexico is paying for it. (grin)

Maybe we could get Mexico to help pay for Powell’s Pipeline since they will ultimately benefit from the additional water running down the Colorado River.

It may not be just a pipeline dream.


Andy Howell can be reached at