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Arizona Quotations:
Water & Scarcity of Water

Arizona... a land where a good spring is far better than a gold mine... ~E. E. A. from Ohio, "Some Notes of a Trip to California," Success with Flowers, 1898

Water, water, water… There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock, of water to sand, insuring that wide, free, open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here, unless you try to establish a city where no city should be. ~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, 1968

What started it all, and gave birth to the nearly 6 million diverse acres we now call Maricopa County, was, of course, water. More specifically, the water of the Salt River. It formed up from a filigree of creeks with colorful names... draining the snows of the White Mountains... Then it flowed briskly southwestward, past tawny, low-slung mountains, through canyons and across the desert, to a confluence with the Verde northeast of present-day Mesa, thence into the valley of the Salt. We are the children of that river. If it hadn't been there, we wouldn't be here. ~Joseph Stocker, "The Big One," Arizona Highways, 1971,

...the low Sonoran Desert... At an early age it was obvious to me that water was the element of consequence, the root of everything out here... The desert surface is carved into canyons, arroyos, cañoncitos, ravines, narrows, washes, and chasms. The anatomy of this place has no other profession but the moving of water. ~Craig Childs, The Secret Knowledge of Water, 2000

If it crosses your mind that water running through hundreds of miles of open ditch in a desert will evaporate and end up full of concentrated salts and muck, then let me just tell you, that kind of negative thinking will never get you elected to public office in the state of Arizona. When this giant new tap turned on, developers drew up plans to roll pink stucco subdivisions across the desert in all directions. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Called Home," Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007  [This is the thing I dislike most about living in Phoenix — irresponsible, unchecked growth being allowed in the midst of water availability issues. –tg]

For Phœnix is not merely well supplied with water; she is extravagantly supplied, since she joined forces with Uncle Sam's practical scientists, who, guided years ago by that greatest of America's practical geniuses, Major John Wesley Powell, arrested the melted snow-waters of the peaks of Central Arizona, and stored them for man's use. ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917

What are the just deserts for a species too selfish or preoccupied to hope for rain when the land outside is dying? Should we be buried under the topsoil in our own clean cars, to make room for wiser creatures? ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Called Home," Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007

Today's threats of Camelback development, upon which the public chokes, are like gnats compared with the camel to be swallowed tomorrow... The Chamber of Commerce values an unspoiled Camelback. Surrounding resorts plead for a scenic mountain. Horsemen and climbers want Camelback left alone, and everybody living in sight of it seemingly wants it natural, and all over Arizona are people wishing for preservation... Just as surely as God sculpted a three-mile-long camel cartoon out of granite and sandstone, man is going to brand its hide... Unlike its living facsimile, Camelback is dry in the humps. Water will not run up hill... But what will drastically change the appearance of the old camel, make it look like a zebra or a skunk, are roads... This, then, is the present and the prediction:  An economy and society pressing prices and people upward. ~Donald Everett Dedera (1929–2020), "Phoenix Upmanship: Camelback's Tops," in The Arizona Republic, 1963

Water flows uphill towards money. ~Anonymous, saying in the American West, quoted by Ivan Doig, in Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert, 1986

The Developers... They cannot see that growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness, that Phoenix and Albuquerque will not be better cities to live in when their populations are doubled again and again. They would never understand that an economic system which can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human... Time and the winds will sooner or later bury the Seven Cities of Cibola — Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, all of them — under dunes of glowing sand... ~Edward Abbey, "Water," Desert Solitaire, 1968  [In 1876, the territory of Arizona had a recorded population of 9,658. One hundred years later, nearly 2½ million. And as of 2017 my home state is up to more than 7 million, with 4.8 million in the Phoenix Metro area. Yikes! When will the politicians admit that incessant development in our desert without sufficient water is dangerous, irresponsible, and downright vile? –tg]

Arizona is still an agricultural state. Even after the population boom of the mid-nineties, 85 percent of the state's water still went to thirsty crops like cotton, alfalfa, citrus, and pecan trees. Mild winters offer the opportunity to create an artificial endless summer, as long as we can conjure up water and sustain a chemically induced illusion of topsoil... Living in Arizona on borrowed water made me nervous... But these gardens of ours had a drinking problem. So did Arizona farms. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Called Home," Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007

You know you're an Arizona native, when you not only know what a zanjero is, but you call one a friend. ~Bill Leverton, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When…, compiled by Don Dedera, 1993  [Zanjero is Spanish for "ditch rider." Zanjeros control the flow of water from our canals. Homes that still have flood irrigation have neighborhood zanjeros for hire, if you're unable to DIY for your own yard. —tg]

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Original post date 2016 Apr 25
Last saved 2021 Jul 03 Sat 12:43 PDT