One of La Paz County’s Representatives at the state capitol, Dist. 5 Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, has introduced three bills that she says will help stabilize groundwater supplies in rural Arizona. This comes after a series of articles in a Phoenix newspaper stated large wells for commercial agricultural production in rural Arizona are depleting groundwater supplies.
The story stated some rural residents have found their residential wells have gone dry because heavy agricultural use has severely lowered the water table.
One of the problems the story reported was many rural wells are not metered, so the Arizona Department of Water Resources does not know just how much water is being used.
Cobb’s primary bill is HB 2986, which calls for the creation of what she calls Rural Management Areas. She said these would be established by a county board of supervisors following public meetings and hearing testimony. The board of this district would make recommendations to the Arizona Department of Water Resources as to what should be done in a given area.
“It could be for a single basin or more than one basin,” she said. “They could recommended the metering of wells. It would go to the ADWR.”
Cobb said the most important part of this is the process will be done in the open with input from local residents.
Cobb’s second bill, HB2895, calls for the creation of an Irrigation Non-Expansion Area, or INA. Again, this process would go through the county board of supervisors. Once an area is designated an INA, no new wells may be drilled.
As for development planned or already underway, Cobb said they could continue with these. However, there would be no new development.
The third bill, HB 2405, prohibits the transfer of fourth-priority Colorado River water rights.
“The water cannot be sold,” she said. “The water has to remain with the property.”
Cobb said she worked with the Phoenix newspaper on their series about groundwater depletion. On the website eenews.net, she said Arizonans have long believed they should be able to drill a well wherever they want. She said they changed when the large agricultural interests came in and began drilling so many wells and using so much groundwater.
The eenews.net story said the City of Kingman, Mohave County’s seat, became concerned because of all the agricultural wells drilled in the last decade had quadrupled the amount of water being withdrawn. The U.S. Geological Survey said this went far beyond recharge rates.
Kingman has a population of about 30,000, and is entirely dependent on groundwater.
The problem is that, while wells in Arizona’s metropolitan areas are regulated, wells in rural areas are not. Rep. Kirsten Engel, a Tucson Democrat, told the Phoenix newspaper the state is facing a groundwater crisis. She said small farmers, businesses and residents are at a disadvantage because large agricultural interests can afford to drill deeper wells.
One of Engel’s bills would require metering on all rural wells in order to find out how much water is actually being used.
The Phoenix newspaper reported that one-quarter of the 33,000 wells analyzed had seen their water levels drop by 100 feet or more since they were drilled.
To comment on Cobb’s proposed legislation, you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her office phone number is 602-926-3126.