11/5/2011 The Arizona Republic: Zarbin: Tribes have role in Ariz.’s water future Indian – Tribes have unfair advantage in Ariz.’s water future: Indian tribes are expected to play significant roles in central Arizona’s water future, but they get little recognition of this in the media. For instance, in the past two months, The Arizona Republic has printed columns about two new institutional reports about central Arizona’s water future, but neither article mentioned Indian tribes, much less explained the part they play in the coming drama. In “Watering the Sun Corridor: Managing Choices in Arizona’s Megapolitan Area,” issued by the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University, several hundred words are spent on the Indians, including the possibility that tribes will use 500,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water imported through the Central Arizona Project for agriculture instead of leasing it to cities for people to use.
“This policy choice,” wrote chief Sun Corridor author Grady Gammage Jr., “might be made by central Arizona’s tribal communities. At an average use of 150 GPCD (gallons per capita daily), that’s 2.9 million fewer people to be accommodated.”
If, as Gammage stated in The Republic Aug. 21 (Viewpoints), “the Sun Corridor … watering system can likely support about 9.5 million people at current rates of consumption — but to do that will require virtually eliminating commercial agriculture,” and Indian tribes make a “policy choice” to continue commercial agriculture, what do those 2.9 million people do for water?
Indeed, how did central Arizona Indian reservations come to be in the position of one day being able to decide whether they prefer to farm or to continue to lease water to cities so that 2.9 million urbanites in the Sun Corridor will have water?
Today’s Sun Corridor residents, as well as those in the generations to come, deserve to have a clear understanding of how and why a considerable portion of their water future came to be put into the hands of Indians and what, if anything, could or should be done about it.
The story of how this came about is much too complicated and lengthy to be told in this brief commentary, but an inkling of what is involved may begin to emerge by understanding that less than 5 percent of the state’s 2010 population of 6,392,017 living on Indian reservations control a little more than 51 percent of Arizona’s yearly Colorado River water-surface supply of 2,800,000 acre-feet.
(Gammage pointed out that an acre-foot of water, 325,851 gallons, is “enough to support about five people per year, not including agriculture, mining and other industry.”)
The 51 percent of the state’s Colorado River water controlled by Indian tribes includes almost 46 percent, 650,724 acre-feet, of the water brought from the Colorado River to the Sun Corridor counties of Maricopa, Pinal and Pima by the Central Arizona Project.
Just two of these tribal groups, with one-third of 1 percent of the state’s 2010 population, have been given almost 1 million acre-feet of Arizona’s yearly Colorado River water entitlement. The tribal groups are the Gila River Indian Community, whose reservation abuts metropolitan Phoenix on the south, and the Colorado River Indian Tribes, along the Colorado River.
With about 19,000 residents, the two reservations have 974,202 acre-feet of Colorado River water. The Gila River Reservation is entitled to 311,800 acre-feet and the Colorado River Reservation 662,402 acre-feet.
This seems excessive to this observer, but, then, what does he understand of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides for “the equal protection of the laws.” As George Orwell wrote in “Animal Farm,” “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
The second institutional study, “Arizona at the Crossroads: Water Scarcity or Water Sustainability,” provided by the Grand Canyon Institute and reported in The Republic Oct. 3, doesn’t even mention Indian involvement.
What are Arizonans of the future, or today for that matter, to think about the unfair distribution of Arizona’s Colorado River water and the fact that Indian tribes can so drastically impact the off-reservation water picture?
But, then, maybe we aren’t expected to think or to be concerned and are simply to ignore that non-Indians have not been treated alike.
Earl Zarbin, a retired reporter and editor for The Republic, is the author of six history books, four of them about Arizona water.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2011/11/04/20111104zarbin05-tribes-role-arizs-water-future.html#ixzz1dvKhCn1W