A recent The Arizona Republic series on water and a PBS Horizon television program both highlighted the rural families’ struggles to access groundwater. Out-of-state corporations are removing large quantities of ground water from water basins to grow hay, corn, pistachios, and other crops; and, in some rural areas, the water table has dropped 300 feet. There are about 20 water basins in Arizona with multiple sub-basins, according to Sarah Porter, Director, Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy.
According to an The Arizona Republic and USA Today article on Jan 19, 2020 by Ian James, entitled “Ducey defends AZ record on water,” managed areas need to ensure a “long-term balance between the water that’s pumped out and the amount going back into aquifers” and these areas are “not on track to achieve this target or struggling to get there.”
There are two types of water management in Arizona: 1. Irrigation non-expansion areas and 2. Active management areas (which includes a mix of cities, like Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley). The issue is the state is not addressing future well development outside these active management areas.
While multi-million-dollar investments in industrial farms or large developments will be able to dig deeper and deeper wells, it could be cost prohibitive for rural residents surrounding these developments. Ms. Porter indicates this crisis in rural Arizona “can be fixed,” but the Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources needs more authority in developments outside these active management areas of the state. This will allow the department to consider likely, future demand and not just current demand, which is the case today.
In Yavapai County’s rural areas, where dense housing is up for debate and water issues are not allowed in the conversation to persuade P&Z commissioners and supervisors, water level management is a concern to many.