Pinal County water battle jeopardizing Colorado River drought plan

The gap between Pinal County farmers and the Gila River Indians over how to protect the Colorado River and Lake Mead is far wider than the interstate highway separating their communities.
But non-Indian farmers, tribal leaders, cities, developers and other interest groups can’t agree on what to cut.
Under the guidelines, when Lake Mead first falls below 1,075 feet at the end of a calendar year, the CAP would lose 320,000 acre-feet of water.
Pinal farmers would lose nearly half their CAP supplies under the 2007 guidelines, but all of them under early versions of the drought plan.
The Pinal farmers, numbering about 200 in four irrigation districts that get CAP water, are fighting to get the cuts reduced by the committee.
I’d have to give it back,” said Pearson, who has a “Born to be a farmer” sign in her office.
Pearson’s Santa Rosa Produce farm has long-term contracts to sell melons to Walmart, Costco, Aldi’s and Kroger, grosses $30 million to $40 million annually and employs up to 1,200 people during peak harvest seasons, her state representative, David Cook, recently wrote to Gov.
But if his CAP supplies went away in 2020 — when the Colorado River’s first shortage could be declared — his Maricopa-area farm would drop from 1,700 to 775 acres, reducing crop yields 45 percent, he said.
Thelander said that under the 595,000 acre-foot plan, farms would get 35 percent of their current supplies over the next seven years.
When Mead drops to 1,025 feet, under any plan, cities and tribes would still get water while non-Indian farms would get none.

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