• Physiographic Limitations Upon the Use of Southwestern Rivers

      Breed, Carol S.; Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff (Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science, 1971-04-23)
      Southwestern rivers are few in numbers and low in discharge. The physiographic and climatic reasons for this are discussed. To the east of the 100th meridian, rainfall is reliable and agriculture is stable; while to the west, there is a chronic deficit of water, droughts are frequent and lifestyles must be accordingly adjusted. Dam building results in greatly increased silting behind the dam in both the river and its tributaries and accelerated channel erosion below the dam. Total flow must also decrease due to withdrawals and increased evaporation from reservoirs. The correction of apparent errors in measuring the virgin flow of the Colorado River now indicates that this flow is about 15 maf/yr. Current legal allocations total 17.5 maf/yr of river water, including the central Arizona project (cap), which will withdraw 1.2 maf/yr. While the river is being dammed and overallocated beyond all reason, the water table is being mined at the alarming rate of 20 ft/yr. In central Arizona, it has dropped to about 250 ft below the surface, and even if all withdrawals ceased immediately, it would take many centuries of of desert rains before it would return to its former level of 50 ft. The cap water will cancel only about 1/2 of this overdraft annually. A glance at the phoenix area today shows that rain follows neither the farmers plow nor the subdividers bulldozer.