Arizona Dept. of Water Resources

Several La Paz County residents and officials have been appointed to the newly-created La Paz County West Basin Water Users Study Committee. The appointments were made by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann July 25 and announced at the Aug. 5 La Paz County Board of Supervisors meeting by one of the members, District 3 Supervisor Holly Irwin.

The goals of the committee include receiving and analyzing data on groundwater withdrawal from the Arizona Department of Water Resources, review and make recommendations on an independent consultant’s report estimating groundwater depletion, and presenting a report of their recommendations to ADWR, the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House before Dec. 31, 2021.

State Sen. Sonny Borrelli and State Rep. Regina Cobb are the co-chairs of the committee.

In addition to Irwin, members of the committee include Commissioner Lisa Atkins of the Arizona State Land Department, Quartzsite Council Member Lynda Goldberg, Nathan Rovey, Sharon Rubin, Ava Alcaida and Kristen Nelson of the La Paz County Farm Bureau, Sandy Fabritz, Director of Water Strategy for Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc.; and La Paz County Community Development Director Jeff McCormick.

In addition to the La Paz County committee, there is also a committee for Mohave County with similar responsibilities. They were created following the signing of HB 2467 by Gov. Doug Ducey on May 22. The bill was designed to address concerns about groundwater depletion in both counties. There have been reports of water levels in wells dropping due to large-scale commercial users of groundwater.

The bill was sponsored by Cobb, a Republican from Mohave County. The bill received support from Kingman Mayor Jen Miles and Lake Havasu City Mayor Cal Sheehy.

“This bill is focused on groundwater, which is paramount to the economic development of the region,” Sheehy in published reports. “In the overall scope of the county, this bill is extremely important.”

As part of the legislation, ADWR has budgeted $100,000 in fiscal year 2019 for an independent consultant to estimate the groundwater depletion rate in Mohave and La Paz Counties and estimate the number of years of groundwater they have left in these basins. This report is to be presented to the Governor and legislative officials by Dec. 31, 2019.

The Environmental Defense Fund supported HB 2467 on their website. They noted that Arizona relies on groundwater for 40 percent of its water supply, but groundwater sources outside the major metropolitan areas are largely unregulated. The EDF said this poses a risk to economic growth, community resilience and healthy flowing rivers.

The EDF noted Arizona became a leader in groundwater management with the passage of the Groundwater Management Act of 1980. This established the five Active Management Areas, which are mostly in the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas. These AMAs have a goal of achieving “safe yields,” which means the water going out an aquifer is balanced with that coming in. While 80 percent of Arizona’s population lives within these AMAs, 85 percent of the land is outside of them.

According to the legislation, The La Paz County Committee will be studying groundwater in the Renegras Plain Basin, the McMullen Valley Basin and the Butler Valley Basin.

The committees are set to self-repeal on July 1, 2022.

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