Arizona regulates use of groundwater in high-growth and vulnerable areas, and that is a good thing. However, the rules and process present some problems, especially from effects of the Great Recession. The state House of Representatives has a committee looking into the effects on Pinal County, and that is valuable in making the situation better.
Two of the seven members of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Groundwater Supply in Pinal County, which was created last month, represent much of Pinal County in District 8 — Republican Reps. David Cook of Globe and Bret Roberts of Maricopa. Another is Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Thomas Buschatzke, whose department manages the process.
A meeting of the committee last week included questions about when a long-awaited groundwater model update would be ready. Buschatzke’s answer was it would come this fall. That is important, because some major projects are being delayed while waiting for the update. The recession led to a staffing shortage at ADWR, which has put a damper on its work.
A major issue for the committee is the fact that some developers secured 100-year-supply certificates years ago and have been able to sit on them as housing construction languished. It has restarted recently in Pinal, and now some new builders would like to have some of the water supply. Once a certificate is awarded, it is good for 10 years with the possibility of two five-year extensions.
Cook proposed a bill in the Legislature this year that would have required developers to show more proof of progress to retain the certificates. Allowing the developers to retain them made sense during the recession, but now the builders should be more serious about using them.
The committee’s next meeting will be in Casa Grande, at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 11 at City Hall. That certainly is an appropriate place to meet for an issue so important to Pinal County. The work of the committee, and the anticipated update to the groundwater model, are very important to Pinal.