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CAP Parent Agency Approves Deal With Gila River Indian Community

The agency that runs the Central Arizona Project on Thursday approved a deal to acquire water from the Gila River Indian Community, or GRIC.

The Central Arizona Water Conservation District, in addition to operating the CAP canal, is also in charge of finding water to put back into the ground on behalf of some housing developments, typically those on the outskirts of metro areas. That particular arm of the organization is called the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District, or CAGRD.

In the new deal, the replenishment agency will get access to hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water from the GRIC over 25 years. (One acre foot covers one acre with one foot of water.) The agreement has an initial cost of $97.5 million.

CAWCD board member Jim Holway voted for the deal, but said they still need to look for more sources of water to meet groundwater replenishment obligations.

“It can’t reduce our need to be out in that market, continuing to try to — in a friendly, collaborative way — find water,” Holway said. “Otherwise we aren’t gonna have the ability to meet the demands that I think are coming.”

An attorney for home builder interests, Rob Anderson, expressed a similar sentiment in comments before the CAWCD board.

“The [CAGRD] needs to continue with the acquisitions that it’s been doing, and this is just an important part of that puzzle.”

Earlier this year, the CAGRD walked away from a controversial plan to buy farmland in Mohave County to get access to the land’s water.

The GRIC Council will take up the agreement next week. If it approves, the federal government will need to sign off as well.

In the short term, this deal may make approval of a separate drought deal easier, as developers were facing a cutback under the proposed Drought Contingency Plan. That was an important reason the deal received the endorsement of both the Environmental Defense Fund and the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.

Bret Jaspers was previously the managing editor for news at WSKG in upstate New York. Before that, he was a producer at WYPR in Baltimore and at Wisconsin Public Radio.His stories have aired on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Here & Now, and also the BBC and Marketplace. Way back when, he started as an intern and fill-in producer at WNYC’s On the Media, and then helped out on The Brian Lehrer Show and Soundcheck.When he's not covering the news, he's probably running, reading, or eating. Jaspers is also a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union for professional stage actors.