Wilbur Wuertz was a farmer in Coolidge, AZ and helped create the Hohokam Irrigation District.
Wilbur Wuertz: Building an irrigation district
(The story below is built around a recorded interview)
Wlbur Wuertz wasn’t always a farmer. In fact, after high school, he started at the University of Arizona before World War II changed his plans. He joined the Air Force where he was a pilot and expert on instruments, ultimately becoming an instructor.
Upon returning home, Wuertz headed back to school, graduated in 1949 with a degree in animal husbandry and became a County Agent in Yuma County and then Maricopa County. But ultimately, he decided farming was what he really wanted to do, and it was definitely something he knew. Since his family had arrived in Coolidge in 1929, he’d been part of a farming family.
So when the Central Arizona Project system became a reality, Wuertz knew it was important that the farmers in the area could access CAP water, so he joined with others and founded the Hohokam Irrigation District.
“We didn’t just go draw a big circle and say all of you that are in here are part of the district,” said Wuertz. “We just advertised and told people who – anybody that wanted to get into the district come and sign up.”
The result was about members who farmed about 25,000 acres; they formed the district, got contracts to get the water, built canals and hired staff to operate the district.
“Thank God for CAP, you know since we farmers quit pumping so much and started putting on CAP water, why that water table has, oh it’s even come up a little,” said Wuertz.
Today the boundaries of the District encompass approximately 29,000 acres in Pinal County between the cities of Coolidge and Casa Grande and is the fourth largest District in Pinal County.