Arizona legislators are looking eastward to ease the impact of a two-decade drought in the Colorado River Basin.

According to Arizona Rep. Tim Dunn, who represents the area of Yuma, the Legislature is asking Congress to fund a technological and feasibility study for diverting floodwater from the Mississippi River to replenish the Colorado River. Whether that comes in the form of a diversion dam or pipeline, Dunn says the plan would benefit both the Midwestern and Southwestern United States.

Flooding on the Mississippi River was responsible for 12 deaths and more than $20 billion in economic losses throughout 2019, according to a study by the National Centers for Environmental Information. But if a portion of that water were to be diverted into the Colorado, such a project could potentially save lives as well as stabilize river economies throughout the Midwest, Dunn says.

Meanwhile, Dunn says Arizona is entering its 20th year of severe drought, and water is at critical levels throughout the Colorado River Basin. Dunn is urging the U.S. congress to create a dam or pipeline as a partial solution to water supply shortage in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, as well as a solution to the impact of flooding on the Mississippi River.

According to projections released last month by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Lake Mead is expected to reach an all-time low elevation next month. The man-made lake, which is used by federal officials to determine drought levels throughout the Southwest, is expected to fall below 1,075 feet for the first time, and trigger a Level 1 shortage condition. If that happens, cuts to water allocations throughout the Lower Colorado River basin would ultimately follow at the beginning of next year.

“A new water source would help augment Colorado River supplies,” Dunn said in a news release this week. “Diverting (Mississippi floodwaters), which would otherwise be lost into the Gulf of Mexico, would help prevent the loss of human life and billions in economic damages when flooding occurs.”

According to Dunn, it’s an experiment that has already met positive results in Denver, where floodwater has been successfully harvested from the Missouri River to alleviate the city’s own water shortage.

Mohave County Supervisor Ron Gould, who himself is a former Arizona state senator, says that Dunn’s plan may have merit, if it proves feasible.

“Another option would be that if California can desalinate their own water, we could use more of California’s allotment of Colorado River water here in Arizona,” Gould said on Tuesday.

The proposal of transferring water rights from one body of water to another, however, has been a contentious topic for the Mohave County Board of Supervisors throughout the past several years. This year, the county maintained its opposition to a state-recommended transfer of water rights from the Colorado River to the town of Queen Creek, in Central Arizona.

“The Mississippi River has an abundance of water to divert,” Gould said. “We don’t have an abundance here. This region has been in a drought for most of my life, and I think they set our water allotment during a wet period in history. The amount we’re supposed to be getting is unattainable.”

Copies of Dunn’s proposal has been submitted to the office of President Biden, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and each member of Arizona’s congressional delegation.

Dunn’s proposal was also submitted to the governors of Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin.


(12) comments


Hi dimiantern101. Thank you for your response and yes we lived in CA for about 30 years before retiring in AZ. And you are correct, costs are higher and the construction of almost anything is difficult. And don't be too hard on my buddy North Long who just like myself like to have a little fun at times. We all need to relax and have a little fun on these forms from time to time. All work and no play makes for dull reading, ha ha.

Now I wonder, does anyone want to talk about the cost of that pipeline from the Mississippi to the mighty Colorado River? Here is a link to a proposed project but I am sure there are others.


A mississippi pipe dream!


They have been bouncing around tapping the Mississippi for the last 20 years, it is time to truly evaluate the cost vs desalination which is extremely expensive.


a novel idea for new water with the Mississippi source. Hate to break it to Gould but desalination is not really a feasible option especially if we are talking about California


Don't understand your comment dimlantern101 regarding "desalination is not really a feasible option". I did some Google searching and found this.

"Currently there are 11 desalination plants in California, and 10 more are proposed."

"The largest, by far, is a $1 billion plant on the coast in Carlsbad, 35 miles north of San Diego, that opened in 2015. The largest desalination plant in the United States, it generates up to 56,000 acre-feet of water a year — roughly 8 percent of San Diego County's water supply.Jan 29, 2018"

It appears to me that California is already using significant amounts of desalination and planning for more. What am I missing?


Appears his handle is appropriate. lol


Oh be nice NorthLong, ha ha. He might have some insight like the 10's of thousands leaving CA means more water isn't needed which I doubt is a valid reason. And since the border is open, CA is probably gaining more people than they are losing. Who knows for sure these days? Take care and stay safe.

Too old for this

There are other desalination plants that sit idle and were not brought online after the State received a couple of wet winters. Short sighted politicians believed that CA would always have rain.


Now that is a possibility Too old for this that they currently are not needed. It is after all one of the most expensive ways to get drinking water. It is also true that our politicians don't do a whole lot of Prior, Planning, to Prevent, Poor Performance either. They shut down a pipeline project with no plans for the people who lost their jobs. They are planning to spend billions on charging stations around the country for Electric Vehicles and we don't even have a national standard yet for which plug we are going to support. I could go on for hours but need to go work on the boat for some summer fun.


Tomgarven, thank you for your reply instead of a dumb joke. I made the quip about desalination in California because of the high regulatory burden specifically in that state before new construction proceeds. Yes, there are plenty of plants in California, but the bar is high and not without considerable cost both for construction, maintenance, and just general operation.

On that note, desalination procedures a toxic brine that has serious ecological consequences if not dealt with appropriately. Again, not cheap.

While the supposed pipeline or whatever may cost alot and may not sound feasible, the point I am trying to make is that desalination is not this end all be all solution.


See above for response. Forgot to put it in the right spot [sad]

Too old for this

I wonder how much water could be saved if all new housing diverted gray water to an irrigation source instead of the sewer? Other than the water in the toilet, all of the water we use in our homes could be used to maintain golf courses or city parks lawns without danger to anyone, it seems to me. That would reduce the need for those facilities to use the available water and could significantly cut their water bills, too.

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