Joint Statement from Four Rural Counties Regarding the Finalizing of the Rural Groundwater Committee Recommendations

Published by The Bee News

November 29, 2023

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Coconino County Supervisor Patrice Horstman, La Paz County Supervisor Holly Irwin, Mohave County Supervisor Travis Lingenfelter, and Yavapai County Supervisor Donna Michaels

(PHOENIX—November 29, 2023) “We see the devastation in our communities and across rural Arizona from unsustainable groundwater overuse coupled with historical inaction at the state level to address it. Collectively, our four medium-sized counties represent nearly half of all rural Arizona’s 1.27 million residents. Our constituents, business communities, neighbors, friends, and family members have watched their aquifer levels substantially drop, lands and roads collapse or crack due to land subsidence, and future rural generations’ livelihoods jeopardized. We serve as actual rural elected leaders on this issue for our communities and regions and continue to push for new more-adaptable state legislation that protects all rural residents and gives us locally established groundwater management tools. The origins of this effort have always come from rural Arizona and our advocacy, along with advocacy from so many other rural community members and stakeholders. After years of effort, the Governor’s Office created a council to finally establish an adaptable framework for rural groundwater management in basins that have been declared to be “at-risk” by actual hydrology data, modeling, and science – 43 years after the passing of the 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management Act. Today, as four County Supervisors representing different rural communities across rural Arizona, we applaud the recommendations adopted today by the Governor’s Water Policy Council.

These recommendations were developed by a bipartisan and diverse stakeholder group composed of representatives from municipalities, water companies, industry, agriculture, Tribes, and other water experts tasked with addressing rural Arizona’s groundwater challenges. We applaud the hard work of the committee-members to develop this new adaptable rural management framework and the full Council’s approval at today’s final meeting. We plead that the legislature and Governor finally prioritize these recommendations, draft them into a bill, and pass them into law. Rural Arizona can no longer afford inaction on this issue of rural groundwater sustainability that jeopardizes our citizens, our businesses, and our regional economies. No matter if in a rural or in an urban setting, water managers must have certainty in long-term water planning to assure the future. The Council’s recommendations recognize this and propose new water planning and management tools for rural communities for groundwater basins deemed “at-risk” by the best available hydrology. These tools will bring certainty and security to agriculture, businesses, and families in our communities. We are grateful to the members of this Council and all the stakeholders who put in the work to find common ground and secure rural Arizona’s future.”

Patrice Horstman
District 1 Supervisor
Coconino County
Holly Irwin
District 3 Supervisor
La Paz County
Travis Lingenfelter
District 1 Supervisor
Mohave County
Donna Michaels
District 3 Supervisor
Yavapai County

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