The Central Arizona Project: A Multipurpose Water Resource Development and Management Project

The Central Arizona Project (CAP) is a multipurpose water resource development and management project that supplies water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona. It was a dream shared by Arizonans at the beginning of the 20th century, with a vision of water security and stability for future generations. The system brings water to approximately 1 million acres of land in the heart of Arizona and has helped the state nearly double its population since its completion in 1993. The CAP is managed by the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, a special-purpose tax district called a multi-county conservation district. This government entity was created for the purpose of establishing the water supply for the CAP, reimbursing the costs of the CAP, and the operation and maintenance of the CAP aqueduct.

The District is managed by a 15-member board who are elected from the three-county service area comprised of Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties. The CAP supplies water to nearly 6 million people, more than 80% of the state's population, in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties. It also acts as a collaborating partner and leading innovator in the sustainable management and reliable supply of water for central Arizona. The 1947 plan envisaged “importing 1.2 million acre-feet to central Arizona and using them on existing agricultural land”.

In order to use up its full allotment and prevent California from keeping unused water, the state of Arizona basically gave water away to farmers at a price slightly higher than the cost. Arizona finally signed the river pact in 1944, but long before that, state promoters had been developing their own ideas about how to take advantage of the Colorado River. The Supreme Court sided with Arizona in 1964, issuing a decree under which Arizona and other “lower basin states” have the right to appropriate and use tax flows before they merge with the Colorado River. Clean Elections and the Arizona Civic Leadership Center are organizing an event called “Meet the Candidates” so that Maricopa County voters can hear directly from candidates running for the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.

This event will help voters understand more about the roles and responsibilities of this important government entity. The Central Arizona Project is an essential part of life in Arizona, providing water security and stability for future generations while helping to nearly double its population since its completion in 1993.

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