Pinal Water

A study shows that Pinal County does not have enough groundwater to meet its needs.

FLORENCE — A group of local developers, government officials, residents, water suppliers and farmers may be tasked with finding a solution to the county’s water dilemmas.

State Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, asked Pinal County Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, to consider chairing a local task force that would try to come up with possible solutions. Cook also asked Arizona Water Company President Bill Garfield and Jake Lenderking, the director of water resources for Global Water Resources, to serve on the task force as co-vice chairs.

“The solution has to be from the bottom up for Pinal County,” Cook said.

The request came after a three-hour meeting on Monday in Florence of the Arizona House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Groundwater Supply in Pinal County.

The committee is collecting comments from Pinal County residents and studying the results of a recent groundwater model for the county that was released by the Arizona Department of Water Resources earlier this month.

The model shows that the county does not have enough groundwater supplies to meet the needs of its residents, businesses or agricultural needs for the next 100 years.

Cook put out a request for people interested in serving on a Pinal County water task force at the committee’s last meeting on Oct. 11. Miller, Garfield and Lenderking all submitted letters to the committee saying they would be interested in serving on such a task force.

Cook told the crowd at Monday’s meeting that he specifically wanted Miller to be the chair of any task force on the issue because Miller was elected by the residents of Pinal County and answers directly to them. He suggested making Garfield and Lenderking co-vice chairs because of their access to water data and usage from their two water supply companies. Cook said he would also like to include representatives from the county’s many developers, businesses, water suppliers and Arizona Department of Water Resources staff on the task force. He encouraged anyone else who was interested in serving on a task force to send a letter to his office.

The other members of the ad hoc committee supported Cook’s idea.

Rep. Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix, said the task force’s solutions could create a blueprint that could be used to help solve the state’s water problems.

Several speakers at Monday’s meeting offered solutions that may be taken up by the task force.

Chris Salas, the public works director for the town of Florence, suggested tying the state’s water assurance certification process to local development processes.

Many cities and counties require developers to show some sort of progress on a subdevelopment in order to retain certain permits, he said. The state could use the same criteria to determine if a developer was eligible for a certificate of assured water supply.

If any changes are made to the assured water supply certification process, Greg Abrams, the vice president of land acquisitions for Pulte Homes, asked that government officials take into account developers that had already invested a great deal into their project.

Pulte is in the midst of building out Anthem at Merrill Ranch, a master planned community in Florence. The community is expected to have nearly 3,500 homes when finished.

Rob Anderson from the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona suggested allowing urban water suppliers to purchase unused groundwater from agricultural users. He also suggested requiring water suppliers to increase the amount of water that they recharge into the ground.

Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke pointed out that transferring water from agricultural use to urban use would probably not help the situation. The agricultural sector is also facing a water shortage of about 5 million acre-feet at the end of the next 100 years.

One possible solution that may be off the table is leasing water from the Gila River Indian Community.

A spokesman for Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said the community is working on its own water plan. That plan may include curtailing new water leases with its neighbors from the community’s allotment of Central Arizona Project water.

It may also reduce the amount of CAP water it is storing underground in the Pinal Active Management Area, since the community has nearly met its storage requirements for that AMA, he said.

A date for the next meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Groundwater Supply in Pinal County has not been set.