Groundwater drawdown model

A 100-year model forecasts groundwater drawdown in the Pinal County Active Management Area. The water table is projected to fall by nearly 1,000 feet in the area just below Eloy.

COOLIDGE — Roughly halfway through their planned study of the Pinal Active Management Area, the Eloy and Maricopa-Stanfield Basin study group is opening up the floor.

The group is hosting a consultation workshop that began Monday and will continue Tuesday afternoon, from 1 to 4 p.m., during which stakeholders — city officials, utility managers, members of the public — will be brainstorming and discussing solutions to projected water shortages in the area.

“The main goal of the basin study is to help water managers plan for the future,” said Jake Lenderking, senior vice president for water resources and legislative affairs with Global Water Resources. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in the future. The sessions are geared toward, if we see these types of problems coming, what are potential solutions?”

The basin study, hosted by a group of agencies including the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Pinal Partnership Water Resources Committee, was started in late 2018 and was designed to model current and future water demands and the impact that would have on the local supply. The study’s simulation period encompasses a 43-year span from 2018 to 2060 and is meant as a planning tool as opposed to evaluation of policy.

Recent announcements regarding shortages along the Colorado River, as well as the San Carlos Reservoir, directly threaten agriculture and agribusinesses in Pinal County. According to the EMS basin study, the latter contributes $1.1 billion to the local economy.

Within the Pinal AMA, the ADWR estimated in 2019 that climate conditions could lead to an 8.1-million-acre-foot deficit in groundwater supplies to support existing uses. While aquifer drawdown is expected to occur even in scenarios that prioritize efficiency, resulting land subsidence and the impact to local ecosystems could still be problematic.

The first day of the workshop involved generating ideas for tackling the issue, and grouping them into categories such as municipal incentives or bringing in new water supplies. The second day of the workshop will focus on specific adaptation and mitigation proposals and how to implement them in a reasonable time-frame as well as a preview of what the basin study’s next steps will be.

For more information on how to participate, contact Valerie Swick at vswick@usbr.gov.

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Aaron Dorman is a reporter covering Coolidge and the surrounding area. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.