Jim Downing, the President of the McMullen Valley Chamber of Commerce, takes issue with recent stories in a Phoenix newspaper about how increased heavy agricultural uses in the last decade are draining the state’s groundwater, at least when it comes to the McMullen Valley. While water levels in the valley’s wells have been dropping, he said this has been going on since the wells were first drilled. He said the rate of decline is much slower now that it was in decades’s past.

“Those wells have been going dry since the day they were drilled,” he said. “That’s just a fact of life.”

Downing, who is an engineer, was speaking at a meeting of the chamber board March 10 in response to a request for information from the Pioneer regarding wells in the area following the stories in the Phoenix newspaper.

Water levels in McMullen Valley wells were dropping much faster when there were 10,000 acres producing cotton in the early 1980s, Downing said. The levels were dropping by about 10 feet per year. Since then, area farmers have shifted to crops that use a lot less water. As a result, by 2002, water levels were being reduced by about three feet per year.

“Wells were going dry a lot faster in 1980 than they are today,” Downing said.

Downing said no one in Arizona “owns” the water. It’s considered a state resource. However, if you own property, you can pump the groundwater on that property as long as it’s put to useful purpose. He added there is no limit on how much can be pumped.

As for the alfalfa farms near Vicksburg, Downing said that is a different basin from McMullen Valley, and water use there does not affect the McMullen Valley. He added he was surprised when Rock Cramer and others began growing alfalfa there.

“If you had told me you could grow alfalfa hay there, I would’ve thought you were nuts,” Downing said.

The City of Phoenix owned much land in the McMullen Valley with the intention of transferring the water of Phoenix, Downing said. In 1992, they did a water study that concluded it would cost too much money to send the water to Phoenix. The city eventually sold the land to a company called International Farming Corp.

While there were 68 operating irrigation wells in 1986, when Phoenix owned a lot of property, Downing said there were 20 irrigation wells in 2011.

Chamber member James Rinehart said it was the chamber’s job to present real information on the water situation. He said the McMullen Valley was in good shape when it came to groundwater despite recent growth in the area.

“We have a lot more people here and a lot more activity,” he said.

Downing summarized the situation this way:

“Do we have 100 years of water? Yes. Are we going to have to drill deeper? Yes. Will it get more expensive? Yes.”

Of the water situation, Rinehart said, “We’re safe. It’s okay.”


(1) comment


Downing would favor draining the aquifer dry if it means preserving his business. He cavalierly ruminates how the aquifer water level was dropping much faster in the 80s than today.

If that is true, why have wells from the 80s gone dry already? And how long before all old and new wells alike go dry from drilling more and more new wells everywhere?

The problem with Chamber of Commerce leadership is the prioritization of financial gain of its members at the expense of public health, welfare and the environment. These are the people that get in bed with politicians to draft laws and government policy favoring big shots' return on investment.

It doesn't matter if every consumer must spend tens of thousands of dollars to drill deeper family wells, so long as chamber members do not have to pay for it.

It doesn't matter if every new well drilled means more pesticides will be sprayed on crops that contaminate the only water supply in McMullan Valley, which water is used and consumed by children and families, with the risk of extreme chronic disease and cancer, so long as chamber members do not have to pay for it.

It doesn't matter if commercial traffic and 18-wheelers tear up roads, which routinely cause expensive damage to consumer vehicles, so long as chamber members do not have to pay for it.

It doesn't matter if a smelter sets up shop next to schools and bedrooms, risking health and diluting lifestyle of children and families, so long as chamber members are held harmless.

No, none of that matters. And the reason none of that matters is because the business sector has always gone out of its way to bribe and forge public policy that forces taxpayors to pay for every mistake made by both politicians and chamber members alike.

A case in point, who's paying for the Yakima incompetence of La Paz County bureaucrats and elected officials, their abject lunacy amounting to $30 million by now?

Politicians, bureaucrats and members of any chamber of commerce consist of vile, mean, horrible, arrogant specimens who communicate with and help only each other, demonstrating overwhelming contempt for taxpayers and consumers, all of whom are seen only as renewable resource to prey upon for financial gain, in the way hunters prey upon wild animals.

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