County Approves Purchase of Land to Ensure Standing in Dispute over Proposed CAWCD Water Lease

Mohave County Board of Supervisors approved a purchase of approximately 15 acres in the Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District (“MVIDD”) in April. According to the minutes from the board meeting, the $250,000 purchase would ensure the county standing in their conflict with the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (“CAWCD”).

The source of the county’s conflict with CAWCD is an August 2017 agreement between CAWCD and the Town of Quartzsite for the lease and purchase of 1,070 AF/year of fourth priority Colorado River water. The transaction was seen as a “grab” of the area’s high priority Colorado River water for the municipalities in central Arizona and became highly controversial. (For background on the CAWCD-Quartzsite agreement, see “CAWCD Enters Long-Term Lease with Town of Quartzsite,” JOW Fall 2017).

Mohave County took additional steps in May. At its May 7, 2018 meeting, the board authorized staff to apply for 75 AF of water from MVIDD for the land, and at its May 12, 2018 meeting, the board authorized the county’s outside counsel to file a lawsuit against MVIDD and its board members, if they vote to change their policy to allow the Quartzsite/CAWCD transfer to proceed.

The proposed transfer was also examined by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (“ADWR”)—at the request of CAWCD and Quartzsite. ADWR found that Quartzsite’s water had not been put to use and, therefore, had not been perfected—which means under the state’s policy guidelines it should not be transferred. ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke penned a letter to the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) explaining the ADWR’s findings and recommending that DOI deny the lease.

On June 7, 2018, the CAWCD Board of Directors voted to terminate the agreement with Quartzsite citing due diligence issues that cannot be resolved before the end of the due diligence period.


Written by Marta L. Weismann