Desert Migration and Finite Water Resources

October 30, 2021 I began my 21st annual migration to a home in the Sun City, Arizona desert. The morning was fresh.  Looking from the window seat  of my 321 Airbus the fog had lifted from all but the river valleys as the plane took off from MSP airport.  We were seeking cruising altitude within open blue skies.  The air was “clear and a million” as my pilot son would describe it.  Many farmers had already plowed their field making a clear and intricately patterned patchwork of the landscape below.  Eventually we passed over the more arid lands of western Kansas and Nebraska.  Here the fields are dotted with irrigation circles.  Several creative framing engineers had perfectly divided their irrigation spheres in half sending a message of conscious conservation.  The color differential was stunning.  Clearly the land has been prepared for another dry spring. Our flight path barely touched the southeast corner of Colorado where only a hint of snow mellowed the dull brown of dry mountain tops south of Colorado Springs.  The Colorado River basin remained extremely dry.

I’m a third generation Sun City gal.  My dad’s aunt and husband were pre-construction buyers of their Sun City home in 1960. Uncle John worked for the railroad.  Aunt Eleanor was an avid golfer.  Clearly the new concept of “senior living” in a planned age restricted development was the perfect fit for a retiring couple who would need to carefully live within the limits of John’s Social Security and railroad pension incomes.  They loved their new home on North Golf Course. Their address: St. Andrew’s Drive.

My dad and stepmother followed twenty-five years later.  They purchased a condo on 107 Drive in the early 1970’s.  Dad was the retired owner of Mankato Crane Service.  Any heavy construct in the Valley of the Sun brought his attention.  There was great excitement when work began on the new Aqua Fria River Dam in 1985. It would replace the first built in the 1920’s.   As my dad told the story the new construction was expected to take as long as ten years ti fully fill the basin.  Instead the heavy rains sequestered water at an elevation of 1728′ to the crested length of 4,900′ in just a matter of weeks by its completion date in 1994.  The Valley of the Sun was flush with a water supply and now ready for growth and prosperity.

Currently thanks to the generous 2021 monsoon rains Lake Powell has achieved a water level 6.46′ above “full pool” of 1,650.00.’