A new groundwater model, awaited for years, was unveiled Friday, and it had some surprises because of changes included. We can only say that it is good that the state is planning for future years in the desert, but many questions will have to be answered. And hopefully soon.
The bottom line, according to Director Thomas Buschatzke of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, is that an expected demand for 80 million acre-feet over the next century in the Pinal Active Management Area will result in a shortage of more than 8 million acre-feet. About a fourth of that deficit is in areas under development that had been granted assured water supply status from ADWR. The management area includes much of the county but not northern Pinal.
High on the list of questions is the status of Attesa, a major motor sports complex planned for west of Casa Grande, which is being told it will not have adequate water. The developers, who earlier believed the site had a water supply, had been waiting for the new model for years.
As for agriculture, its long-term future will depend on innovation, different crops and possibly a new supply of water. Some parts of the Casa Grande Valley ran out of groundwater for crops years ago. Colorado River water provided a temporary solution, but that will wind down in the next decade or so. Already there is a stop-gap measure to make up for river water shortages with groundwater, but that is not a long-term answer.
Terri Sue Rossi of Arizona Water Company offered a suggestion during a meeting in Casa Grande Friday in the form of a Pinal AMA water management group and creating a “bridge plan” to “stabilize the regulatory environment.”
Casa Grande City Councilman Dick Powell raised the idea of piping floodwaters from the Midwest to the source of the Colorado River. The idea of piping seawater from the west also has been offered at times. It is quite possible that a new source of water will be tapped in the future, as it will be necessary to supply an area where more and more people want to live.
The new AMA model may have created more questions than it answered, but the answers should be found soon. That certainly can happen in a state that always has faced water challenges.