Howard Wuertz is a farmer who served on the CAWCD Board of Directors as the lone Pinal County representative from 1971-1983, including three terms as President of the Board.
Howard Wuertz: An agricultural perspective
(The story below is built around a recorded interview)
When Pinal County farmer Howard Wuertz was appointed to the first Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors in 1971, he knew the CAP system was important to Arizona, even though many people thought it sounded like a crazy idea.
“There’s a certain inertia about certain things,” Wuertz said. “In the fifties and sixties, there was a twenty-year period that nobody hardly ever drew a breath that didn’t say something about getting the Colorado River water into the central part of the state of Arizona.”
He’d also been a farmer long enough to know that by the mid-1950s, the water table was declining and the drilling of new wells was not allowed. So constructing a system to bring Colorado River water to the central part of the state was necessary. Even the Federal Government got involved, threatening to shut down construction of CAP unless Arizona passed a meaningful groundwater management act.
When Governor Bruce Babbitt assembled a group of leaders from the water community to address Arizona’s water issues, Wuertz, as both President of the CAWCD Board and President of the Cotton Growers, was asked to be part of the group.
“I’m getting my snoot full of water issues because every time you turn around, the pumps pump less water, the state is on your back, the federal government is on your back,” said Wuertz.
Those efforts resulted in many things. The group assembled by Babbitt worked tirelessly to enact Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Act, which satisfied the Federal Government’s desire for Arizona to have a meaningful groundwater management act. Construction continued on the CAP system. And Wuertz learned about drip irrigation, implementing it on his farm, resulting in decreased water usage and increased yields.
Wuertz served a total of 12 years on the CAWCD Board of Directors, including three terms as President. He left in 1983 before deliveries began, but worked through many difficult issues such as Orme Dam and Plan 6. He is proud of his work and support of CAP.
“I think that growing up with the idea of bringing the Colorado River water into the central part of the state was a sound plan, and it was constructed properly, utilized properly, and I think it’s just exactly what it should be,” said Wuertz.