Gila river for Sierra Club article on Gila River diversion project

By Allyson Siwik, Chapter Executive Committee, Gila Resources Information Project/Gila Conservation Coalition

After weeks of negotiations, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission approved in June a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) to form the entity that will be responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the billion-dollar Gila River diversion project. As of press time, nine local governments have signed the agreement in advance of the July 3 deadline.

Local governments are signing on to financing a $1 billion diversion project that is technically infeasible, unaffordable, and unnecessary given that non-diversion alternatives can reliably meet water-supply needs at a small fraction of the cost of a diversion.

By signing onto the JPA, local governments may issue bonds, levy taxes and assess user fees on water users to pay for the costs of the New Mexico Unit. The Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) subsidy of $100 million won’t cover the full cost of the Unit, leaving a gap of $900 million-plus for taxpayers and water users to cover.

The JPA explicitly prohibits funding of cost-effective non-diversion alternatives and takes funding away from community water projects that could benefit people throughout southwest New Mexico. AWSA funds could be used to fully fund diversion and ditch infrastructure improvements for irrigators on the Gila and San Francisco Rivers, municipal water projects like conservation, effluent reuse and water supply infrastructure improvements, and watershed restoration. These community projects represent the common-sense and responsible approach to meeting our future water needs.

For more information on defending the wild Gila River, visit www.protectthegila.org

Feature Photo by Gila National Forest

Licensed under Creative Commons

Deal shuts door on funding for Gila River alternatives