The Feds Are Coming for Our Water

| May 3 2012

By Nick Dranias

The City of Tombstone, Arizona is no longer the only one fighting the federal government for water rights. The latest move by the Federal Bureau of Land Management appears to herald a bigger and much more comprehensive effort to seize water and access rights on federal lands throughout the western states.

Just last week, the Bureau of Land Management declared to the Arizona Department of Water Resources that the federal government holds senior water rights across much of Arizona’s San Pedro River riparian watershed. The BLM’s objection to the “Designation of Adequate Water Supply” issued by ADWR to Sierra Vista’s Pueblo del Sol Water Company stakes the claim that water sources in the area cannot be used without the federal government’s permission. This new federal policy not only defies decades of deference to and accommodation of state sovereignty over water law, but it throws a noose around Arizona’s neck, for which water is life.

The growing federal stranglehold over water rights in Arizona is a direct assault on state autonomy. There is perhaps no better way for the federal government to quell restive western states, like Arizona, that dare to resist federal immigration, healthcare, and unionization policies.

More than ever before, the BLM’s actions show that it is essential for the Goldwater Institute to prevail in our efforts to vindicate Tombstone, Arizona’s 130-year-old water rights, which the federal government is challenging. If Tombstone fails in its effort to preserve its municipal water supply, which is essential to its existence, the floodgates of federal overreach will wash away what little sovereignty the western states still enjoy.

Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.

Learn more:

Sierra Vista Herald: Warning on water issued by Babbitt in ’94

Arizona Department of Water Resources: Bureau of Land Management letter (PDF)

Goldwater Institute: Tombstone v. United States

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