Water use in Arizona’s most populated areas has been in the news because of lengthy negotiations that were required over the prospects of reduced supplies from the Colorado River during a chronic drought. News coverage during that time apparently has prompted state legislators to look more seriously at addressing some current trends toward excessive pumping.
Forty years ago, in 1980, the state’s leaders showed wisdom in enacting the Groundwater Management Act after being forced into a corner by the federal government as the Central Arizona Project came closer to reality. That legislation has had a major effect on planning and limiting usage in the most populated and dry areas, namely Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties and Prescott. While the law has been effective, it also has had the effect of giving Arizona something of a false sense of security.
Now there are problems with excessive groundwater withdrawal in other areas. Some of that is being caused by corporate farms that make major investments in deeper wells, which can create difficulty and expense for other water users. Also, in recent years, lobbyists have sought legislation that would make development and pumping easier in some of the far reaches of the state.
Meanwhile, the Department of Water Resources has emerged from a time when severe budget restrictions limited its personnel. That important agency should have the experts it needs to fulfill its critical role.
This year, legislators of both parties are stepping up with bills that could go a long way to protect the state’s future. According to The Arizona Republic, some of these bills would:
n Require large commercial wells to meter output.
n Allow rural counties to require metering.
n Require developers in all areas to prove a 100-year water supply, as is the case now in the more urban areas.
n Make it easier to limit well drilling.
The legislative leadership seems more willing to accept water legislation in the new session. That certainly should happen, as the state’s future depends on it.