Queen Creek to receive Colorado River water from Cibola farm in controversial transfer

The transfer of water began on July 19 and took years of legal proceedings.
Queen Creek agreed to a deal that would bring water from western Arizona but critics fear it could lead to more investment firms buying land for water.
Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 10:21 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

QUEEN CREEK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - For the first time, Queen Creek is getting water from a property owner in the small town of Cibola, Arizona, in La Paz County. In some ways, experts say it’s a first-of-its-kind transaction in Arizona, and the sale did not come without controversy.

After years of court proceedings and getting approval from state and federal officials, the Queen Creek mayor, councilmembers and other city leaders met on Wednesday morning to celebrate the deal. For the first time, it was publicly used to water the grass at Desert Mountain Park.

For Queen Creek officials, this was the right move to ensure renewable water for their community’s future. After a groundwater model was released in June, the town says it needs to find a water supply for about 10,000 lots that have yet to be built.

In some ways, experts say it’s a first-of-its-kind transaction in Arizona, and the sale did not come without controversy.

However, a number of Arizona counties, including La Paz, were part of a lawsuit to stop the transaction. Holly Irwin, who is on the Board of Supervisors and lives in Cibola, worries this will set a dangerous precedent and bigger, metropolitan cities will continue to buy water from smaller communities in the face of our ongoing drought and cuts to our state’s Colorado River water supply.

“And that was the biggest concern,” Irwin recently told Arizona’s Family. “That you’re going to start seeing more of this type of application to the state to allow for water transfers to occur off the Colorado River. And it’s already happening. What we feared is already coming true.”

Irwin sent a statement to Arizona’s Family on behalf of La Paz County and leaders in Mohave and Yuma counties. Below is a portion of that statement:

Meantime, Paul Gardner, the director of the Queen Creek Water Division, contends this was the right thing to do to diversify the town’s water supply and reduce its dependence on groundwater. He says at one point, groundwater was 90% of the town’s supply. It’s down to 50% now, and he hopes to get it to 10%.

“We feel like what this transfer is, is basically taking a water supply that was used for agricultural farming and having a better use for residential and future development,” Gardner explained. “I think that this was very timely and that this coincided this summer with the department and governor’s announcement that mining groundwater for development was over. And so this comes in the nick of time.”

Gardner says the town is working on bringing in other sources of water, including from Harquahala Valley.

See a spelling or grammatical error in our story? Please click here to report it.

Do you have a photo or video of a breaking news story? Send it to us here with a brief description.