George Will

PHOENIX -- Water is an odd natural resource. It falls unbidden from the sky and gathers without human help underground. It flows through many jurisdictions, giving rise to the old Western axiom that whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over. Time was, the fighting was done with Winchesters and Colts. Then Westerners became tame and turned to combat by dueling legislators, including those who produced the Central Arizona Project. The CAP's current general manager is David S. ``Sid" Wilson Jr., who has three modern axioms:

      -- Water flows to money.

      -- It costs more to cause water to flow uphill than downhill.

      -- Water doesn't go anywhere without plumbing.

     The CAP is the plumbing that brings Colorado River water to this semiarid and booming metropolitan area. Most of the 3.7 million who live here -- the area's population grows 2,300 a week -- have no idea how indebted they are to someone they have never heard of.

     Carl Hayden, a former sheriff in the Arizona territory, died 34 years ago after a record 57 consecutive years in Congress. Today, in an 11-year drought in the Southwest that may be the worst in 500 years but that has left this city remarkably untroubled, let us now praise Hayden (1877-1972) as a creator of the CAP, an example of government at its farsighted best.

     Early in the 20th century, the seven states -- California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado -- that share the Colorado River Basin were wrangling over water. The most populous, California, thought it could outvote the others in Congress. Then California's attention was called to the Constitution's Article One, Section Three, the part that created the Senate, where all states are created equal. Hayden read that part.

     He entered the House of Representatives five days after Arizona achieved statehood in 1912. Midway through his eight terms there, in 1921, Congress authorized the seven states to enter into a compact to divvy up the Colorado River. In 1922 the states submitted a compact to Congress. For 22 years their legislators argued about details. In 1928, Hayden, then a freshman senator who would come to be called the Silent Senator, spoke for nine hours against details of a proposal to build on the Colorado River what would become the Hoover Dam. Twenty-three years were to pass before his next major speech on the Senate floor, but he kept busy.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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