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After a years-long wait, the Arizona Department of Water Resources last month released its new model for the Pinal Active Management Area, which includes much of the county but not the northern part. Not having the model had affected development planning, but its specifics raised many questions. Some good ones were asked last week during a meeting of ADWR’s Groundwater Users Advisory Council.

The council, representing water users and having knowledge of development and water policy, makes recommendations to ADWR’s management structure about implementing policies. Some of the questions came from long-term participants in water policy and pointed out shortcomings in the model.

Member Scott Riggins questioned a projected spike in groundwater pumping for irrigation once access to Colorado River water is phased out in about a decade. He said the cost of pumping and improving wells will be weighed by farmers against their potential for realizing income from their specific crops. That would have a great effect on the amount of groundwater available in the future, because traditionally, agriculture is a huge user.

On the other side of the equation, Vice Chairman David Snider pointed out that increased industrial usage had not been estimated. That could mean a drain on supply.

It is clear that predicting water use in the future is difficult, but in this growing part of the state and nation, it is really important.

Meanwhile, a local task force that spun out of an ad hoc committee led by state Rep. David Cook has 29 representatives of Pinal entities, and that number may grow. Among them are officials of major water utilities that have a large water supply, and also a major responsibility in planning for future needs. Such a large task force has the potential to get lost in minutia and conflict. However, County Supervisor Steve Miller, the chairman, is dedicated to finding real solutions to water planning questions fairly soon.

For now, there is plenty of water. The work done by the task force and ADWR must ensure that the future is not a dry one.

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