Hualapai Groundwater Basin Designated as INA by Arizona Water Resources Department

Published by The Bee News

December 20, 2022

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MOHAVE COUNTY, AZ (December 20, 2022) – Late yesterday, Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Director Tom Buschatzke designated the Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin as a subsequent Irrigation Non-Expansion Area (INA). Mohave County sincerely thanks Director Buschatzke and his professional team at ADWR for identifying the growing water challenges occurring in the Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin and providing a fair and reasoned determination.

Every step of this INA process has been transparent and supported by data. At the initial INA hearing on September 20th, the ADWR staff were gracious in allowing the public to speak to the issue and voice their support for or concerns with creating a subsequent INA. During the official public hearing held on November 12th, ADWR responded to any statements and questions made at the first INA meeting. The due diligence and professionalism that ADWR displayed in responding to questions and claims certainly provided the community confidence in the final decision.

The Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin is the first new INA designated in Arizona in 40 years, following the Harquahala Basin designation as an INA in 1982.  This designation of the Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin is consistent with past subsequent INA designations like the Harquahala and will curb the unsustainable expansion and scale of new irrigated acres in the basin.

Since 2014, county and city elected officials, professional staff, and residents in the Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin have been sounding alarm bells that the influx of new large-scale corporate agriculture, and our inability to provide any limitations to that expansion, was putting our Kingman area businesses and residents at great risk. This decision points to new USGS model data obtained by ADWR, indicating four times more water is coming out of the aquifer than is going in each year (44,000-acre feet vs. 10,000-acre-feet). These rapidly declining groundwater levels pose a threat to the public health and the safe supply of groundwater for over 70,000 rural Arizonans.

Former Arizona state representative Regina Cobb, who has been instrumental in advocating for the INA designation said, “ I am thankful to Director Buschatzke for his wisdom in the decision he made to grant an INA in the Hualapai Basin.  This was the right decision and especially with the deficit recharge due to the drought added to the influx of out-of- state farmers mining our water due to lack of regulation in rural Arizona.  I feel this will give our community an economic boost and create more certainty for economic growth. The decision was made on actual scientific facts that were presented at both public meetings and are difficult to refute.  Again, I would like to thank the Director and his team for protecting our water future.  I would also like to thank Supervisor Lingenfelter for his request, as well as, all the supervisors for their approval.”

Mohave County Supervisor Travis Lingenfelter said, “County and City elected officials, professional staff, and residents in the Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin have been working for over seven years now to obtain additional protections for our Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin — the Kingman region’s only water source.  In 2017, the County and City entered into a 3-year agreement with the USGS to create a sophisticated groundwater model that would provide the best available data to measure the health of the Hualapai Basin year-over-year.

“This INA decision points to new USGS model data obtained by ADWR indicating four times more water is coming out of our aquifer than is going in each year (44,000-acre feet vs. 10,000-acre-feet). These rapidly declining groundwater levels pose a threat to public health and the safe supply of groundwater for over 70,000 rural Arizonans.

“The INA decision does not eliminate the need for rural groundwater stewardship in the Kingman area or in rural Arizona in general, but it does serve to rebalance our Mohave County and City of Kingman General Plans locally and it provides some certainty as the county and city look to invest into future water recharge projects.

Lingenfelter added, “The Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin is the first INA to be established in the State of Arizona in forty years, since the Harquahala Basin in 1982. On behalf of the entire Mohave County Board of Supervisors, and our Mohave County water professionals, I applaud ADWR Director Buschatzke on the thoroughness of the process and on his ultimate decision to designate a subsequent Irrigation Non-Expansion Area in the Hualapai Valley Basin. I would also like to sincerely thank Representative Regina Cobb who has championed our growing rural water concerns at the Arizona Legislature for the past eight years. She was not alone, joined by Representative Leo Biascucci, Senator Sonny Borrelli, and City of Kingman officials who were all resolute in their support of an INA despite immense pressure. This INA decision helps to assure that our children’s children in the Kingman area will still have access to a good quality groundwater resource.

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