Mary Beth Carlile served eight years on the Arizona Water Commission, was a founding member of the Southern Arizona Water Resources Association and was twice elected to the CAWCD Board of Directors.

Mary Beth Carlile: A first woman in water

(The story below is built around a recorded interview.)

When Governor Bruce Babbitt was looking for someone to appoint to the Arizona Water Commission, he was looking for a female Republican from Tucson. Mary Beth Carlile was all three and in 1978, became the first woman appointed to the Commission.

“The Arizona Water Commission at that time was all men. It had always been all men and he appointed me,” Carlile said. “It was very interesting, because all the men were very suspicious of a woman and somebody from Tucson, and was I in favor of the CAP and all of those things.”

Carlile served for eight years, but that was just the beginning of her work in water. In the early 1980s, Tucson had a forum about the future of the city and water was a main concern. So in 1982, Carlile was part of a group of 30 who formed the Southern Arizona Water Resources Association (SAWARA). She raised more than $1,000,000 in in-kind contributions and became the executive director, a position she held for 13 years.

“During that time, of course, water policy was a major part of what I did and celebrating the CAP as it came toward Tucson,” said Carlile. “There were so many people that really, really took to heart the importance of the Central Arizona Project to Arizona.”

 Carlile was interested and involved in water and knew how essential CAP was for Arizona and Tucson. So, in 1990 she ran and was elected to the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors for Pima County.

“On the CAP Board that there is no ‘us against them.’ There is no competition,” said Carlile. “It is a board in which everybody is focused on all the issues that have to do with CAP and working with the staff and making good things happen.”

Carlile said that one of the Board accomplishments she is most proud of during her 12 years on the Board is the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD). She served as the chair of the CAGRD committee, getting its finances in order and establishing rules for sound planning.

The evolution of water in Arizona is remarkable, and Carlile was proud to have devoted her time and talents to the work.

“I always loved the outdoors and I always loved the environment, but I never imagined that water would be one of the major issues that I would spend my life thinking about, and working on, and worrying about,” said Carlile.

Read Mary Beth Carlile's Oral History Transcript

Listen to Mary Beth Carlile's Interview