"The board of directors for the Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District voted to take the first step in adopting a fallowing program for its farmers.
The unanimous vote last week could lead to the transfer of water from the Colorado River to other southwestern states as well as towns in central Arizona, the Today's News Herald reported .
But district officials said the move was taken to protect a valuable resource and the interests of Mohave Valley residents.
"We've wanted to entertain a fallowing program for years, but it really takes a sponsor at the other end of the table sitting across from us to help us understand what is possible," said Perry Muscelli, Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District secretary/treasurer and director-at-large.
Under a fallowing program, farmers or landowners would not irrigate some of their land.
Drainage district officials had been in negotiations with the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District on developing a fallowing program as part of a proposed $34 million land sale with associated water rights on seven farms in Mohave Valley that are owned by a New York City hedge fund company.
The replenishment district opted early last month not to pursue the sale.
"The reason nothing was resolved was because we were not willing to do things the way they wanted," Muscelli said. "We were interested in things that would have protected the community and created safeguards so that people living in the district would be in a better place had there been no fallowing program."
Muscelli said the district will look for someone else who is willing to listen to the Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District's concerns and pay an appropriate price to mitigate things like dust abatement on fallowed land.
Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, said this is nothing more than lip service.
"This is a nice talking point, but it also opens it up to a whole bunch of other things," Cobb added. "I can see how they can spin that and say it provides protection, but no, it doesn't provide any protection. It's the first step in transferring water out of Mohave Valley."
Cobb and other critics say there are too many unpredictable issues associated with the Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District's fallowing program that includes a vague limit on how long the program would last, no restrictions on the amount of land that could be fallowed at one time, and how many farmers could participate.
Cobb is planning to draft legislation this year that would prevent water transfers from her district."