PART 1 OF SERIES
“Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting.” Water is the lifeblood of central Arizona, controlling growth for development, industry and agriculture. Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke presented information to a legislative committee meeting in Casa Grande in October. Many stakeholders have stated the study is flawed and functionally deficient. This series will delve deeper into the processes of determining adequate water supply and what it means to area stakeholders.
Recognizing the need for good water management, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved a new “water administrator” job description in the Public Works Department.
The water administrator will have the responsibility for advising Supervisors on sustainability management of water supplies, and working with the county’s strategic plan. They will also monitor state agencies and other authorities on water issues and policies, in order to stay ahead of the game.
This decision came after the Pinal County Groundwater Users Advisory Council (GUAC) and representatives from the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) met in September to discuss updating the five state Active Management Area (AMA) plans. GUAC members are concerned that the new AMA plan might include a safe-yield goal.
According to the ADWR website, “Safe-yield is accomplished when no more groundwater is being withdrawn than is being replaced annually.”
Currently, in the Phoenix, Prescott and Tucson AMAs, the primary goal is to reach safe-yield by 2025.
“In the Pinal AMA, where the economy is primarily agricultural, the management goal is to preserve that economy for as long as feasible, while considering the need to preserve groundwater for future non-irrigation uses,” is the explanation on the ADWR website.
The Pinal AMA covers approximately 4,000 square miles in central Arizona. Not only are there agricultural needs for water, but groundwater mining by industrial users has increased rapidly, and is expected to continue to increase.
Pinal groundwater use breaks down as follows:
- 4% Industrial
- 5% Municipal
- 11% Tribal use
- 80% Agricultural
GUAC members are determined to ensure that a one-size-fits-all AMA safe-yield plan is not applied to the Pinal AMA.
Members of the GUAC:
- David Snider– Chair
- William Collings-Vice Chair
- Oliver Anderson
- Jackie Guthrie
- Scott Riggins
An update to the 2014 Pinal AMA Groundwater Model report is being finalized by the ADWR and is expected sometime in 2019. It will include a 100-year Assured Water Supply projection and structural modifications.
Arizona House of Representatives Creates Ad Hoc Committee on Groundwater Supply in Pinal County
In other water news, the Arizona House of Representatives has created an Ad Hoc Committee on Groundwater Supply in Pinal County.
“The committee will study the supply of available groundwater and renewable water supplies in the Pinal County Active Management Area, and it will make recommendations on the modeling criteria of available groundwater supplies in the area,” explained Matthew Specht, Director of Communications for the House Republican Caucus.
Members of the Committee include:
- Representative David Cook (R-8), Chair
- Representative Noel Campbell (R-1)
- Gail Griffin (R-14)
- Bret Roberts (R-11)
- Rosanna Gabaldón (D-2)
- Diego Rodriguez (D-27)
- Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources
Meetings will be held in Casa Grande and Florence, and the public is encouraged to attend.
“I am very grateful to the Speaker for appointing me to this committee, so we can determine the issues that are impeding growth in Pinal County and collectively find long-term solutions,” said Representative Cook.
“I’m looking forward to improving the water permitting process to ensure Pinal County has the same economic development opportunities that exist elsewhere in the state,” Cook continued. “Water remains a critically important issue, and this committee will work diligently to ensure future prosperity in the region.”