Protecting groundwater in urban, rural areas
Groundwater makes up about 40% of Arizona’s water supply. In much of what is referred to as “rural” Arizona—which comprises about 85% of the state’s footprint and where some 1.5 million people live—Arizona law essentially allows “open access” groundwater pumping, meaning there are few restrictions on how much groundwater can be withdrawn and used. Groundwater is the primary and often only water supply available to many rural residents and businesses, and is the source of year-round flow in most rivers, streams, and springs. WAC believes that rural Arizona communities should be empowered with the tools and support they need to best secure their water future according to their needs, their vision, and local conditions.
In the populous central part of the state where groundwater is already managed, it is important that existing protections remain in place, as potential threats continue to arise that would weaken the 1980 Groundwater Code. The management of groundwater resources in these areas has been central to the region’s economic development and livability. Weakening of existing protections could jeopardize long-term water supplies for the region and the state as a whole.
Secure Colorado River Supplies for the Long Term
Another 40% of Arizona’s water supply comes from the Colorado River. The Colorado River system is badly out of balance, with the amount of water taken out greatly exceeding what flows into the river system in a given year. The 2007 Colorado River Operating Guidelines must be renegotiated by the seven Colorado River Basin states and Mexico by 2026. The new guidelines will govern the releases of water from Lake Powell and Lake Mead for the entire river system and the 40 million people who depend on it. WAC participates on the Arizona Reconsultation Committee, which will guide Arizona’s efforts in the coming years to protect Colorado River supplies, resolve long-standing imbalances, and determine how Arizona will manage and continue to thrive as pressures on our water supplies increase.
Clean Water for Arizona
Arizona’s drinking water supplies and the water quality of Arizona’s rivers and streams are at risk because a new rule reduces the number of waterways protected under the federal Clean Water Act. WAC is participating in the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s stakeholder advisory process to design a new, state-level surface water quality protection program. We support a state program that adequately protects Arizona waterways from pollution, and safeguards those who rely on clean water for drinking, agriculture and ranching, recreation, wildlife habitat, and other uses. Clean water is fundamental to Arizona residents’ quality of life, health, and economic opportunities.
Balancing supply and demand
As early as 2020, Arizona, the other states that rely on the Colorado River and the federal government will begin negotiating new rules for managing the river that will replace existing guidelines.
How can this historic process authentically engage and incorporate diverse perspectives, both at the regional level and within the state? The DCP was a giant step toward balancing our demand for water with what the Colorado River can supply. The next set of negotiations will provide the opportunity to permanently resolve water use imbalances and other longstanding water management issues.
The passage of the drought contingency plan was a great step forward for this state. We can’t afford to lose momentum now.