Arizona water officials worry about future access to Colorado River |

Arizona water officials worry about future access to Colorado River

While cities reliant on the water have backup supplies to cushion them in the short term, talk of cuts leaves long-term picture more uncertain.

Tony Davis
Arizona Daily Star
Colorado River at Glenwood Canyon.
Getty Images

Robbie Woodhouse’s grandfather began nearly a century of family farming along the Gila River near Yuma in the middle 1920s when he dug up a bunch of mesquite stumps on his land to make way for his barley, wheat, Bermuda seed, cotton and melon fields.

Farming never really took off at the Woodhouse homestead until 1954, when the federal government finished a 75-mile-long concrete canal to bring Colorado River water to what’s now known as the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District, which covers about 58,500 acres along the Gila River east of the Colorado.  

Today, Woodhouse presides over the governing board of a district with more than 120 individual growers, partnerships, trusts and other operating entities growing about 100 different crops, including seed crops as well as staples like wheat, cotton, lettuce and other produce. Wellton-Mohawk is one of six agricultural districts in the Yuma area that together grow 90% of the cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli and other winter vegetables sold in the U.S.

But now, the future of this district, of farming in the Yuma area in general and of Arizona’s second largest drinking water supply for urban residents are all mired in a sea of uncertainty. Due to a logjam in interstate negotiations for massive cuts in Colorado River water deliveries, farmers and urban users have no idea how much water use they’ll be ordered to cut, possibly starting next year.


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