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home : opinion : columns April 30, 2016

6/8/2014 6:00:00 AM
Guest column: Whatever happened to water in perpetuity?

By Rich Sherwood
Meadview resident

Are aquifers really personal property?

Just because you have a well doesn't make the aquifer which you withdraw water from (or contaminate) your right to own. Does it?

My concerns are with the Hualapai, Sacramento, and Detrital aquifers. Recently, at a Board of Supervisors meeting, we were given a presentation by the U.S. Geological Survey and Arizona Department of Water Resources folks. I am not a hydrologist, nor do I profess to be. I'm just a concerned citizen who is interested in current and future water sustainability in these aquifers.

Nothing was discussed about any of the current events taking place at or near Red Lake. Rather, we sat and listened to a 10- to 30-year-old data report with no help as to our water future. The BOS bought into it with no follow-up on what to recommend for the future. Shameful.

Taking just the Hualapai basin, let's test some of the "facts" presented:

First, the study used to make comments is at best 10 years old but is more likely 30-40 years old (ADWR Freethey and Anderson, 1986). Just look at some of the assumptions:

• 14 inches of annual rainfall;

• Recharge of approximately 2,500 acre feet per year (1 acre foot= 365,000 gallons of water),

• A draw of approximately 5,200 acre-feet per year.

So ask yourself, do we get 14 inches of rain per year? When was the last time we received 14 inches of rain per year? Second, since 10-plus years ago, how many new wells have been introduced?

The recent wells in Red Lake alone are worrisome, let alone all the others that have been permitted in the last 30 years. So draw down has significantly increased.

The information provided by USGS and ADWR is questionable at best and downright misleading at worst. Not one challenge by the BOS, although Mr. Watson did say there is lag time between gathering data and reporting. Yeah, I guess he's right, about 10-plus years of lag time.

Question: On just this one comment alone, where would you guess which side of this issue would he come down on?

Another concern is that during the previous BOS administration, our county's General Plan was totally re-written. It was just to be updated, but that group took many liberties and basically rewrote the document. This is important to know, because one of the important planning points on water was removed. The term "Water in Perpetuity" was removed.

This was done over the objection of many of us who raised it as an issue. By removing this phrase, they (BOS) basically have washed their hands of any responsibility for your welfare on sustainability of this most important resource.

Additional concerns are with water quality. Who tests it and who is responsible for it? If chemicals are added to the land to support agriculture, what happens when this leaches into the aquifers? Is anyone watching for this or ensuring nothing questionable takes place? How could we know if there is no oversight? There are a number more concerns, but these address current events.

What about the real issue of our water future across the whole county? Read the June issue of Popular Science for a terrific piece on the water being taken from Lake Mead by Las Vegas and its downrange effects on the river communities. It is well-written and presents a scary backdrop for communities taking water from Lake Mead or the Colorado River.

Additionally, back in January of 2007, an application was made to ADWR to allow pumping of a town's water (Northwest Arizona) to Las Vegas. I do not know the resulting status, but the point is, for a $500 application to ADWR, we might see our water being transported elsewhere, like Maricopa or beyond. We would never know about it until it was too late. We need oversight.

My suggestion to all of this is not to listen to the county official who responds to these concerns as an individual who fears the sky is falling. It's condescending and arrogant on their part to infer they have a monopoly on the truth. These are real people and what I've mentioned here is just the tip. When you add mining, I-40 and all the other heavy water users, the problem becomes huge. But with everyone's input and with reasonable people, this can be dealt with.

Planning needs to begin. We could convene a small task group within our county to begin documenting the current issues, since you can't solve a problem until you're able to completely define it. This group will no doubt evolve as the issues become more intense, but it's a beginning and we need to start now.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Article comment by: Jim Consolato

Wow Rick Sherwood:

You nailed it all. Excellent article.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: How 'Bout You?

You've written some of our concerns, and then some. How 'bout you start forming that group now and get things rolling? We know the BOS wouldn't go beyond having staff do a loose report. They like the info being handed to them, nice and tidy, and with public pressure, to get them to look proactively into matters.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: The Fox Hound

It is obvious that our county and state politicians work for the rich rather than the people that elect them. Why else would they give Rhodes the legal right to use so much of our water for such a foolish plan like growing crops in the desert. This state is for sale to the highest bidder. I have invested in rental properties in Kingman and Golden Valley and I was going to buy a few more but I have now decided that just doesn't make sense with this issue unresolved. Why anyone would move here and buy when they might not have water makes me worry about such an investment. You have to ask just how does this help our state and county. The answer is it only make people like Rhodes richer while making the rest of us poorer. Vote the bums out.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: justanobody sr

your point is well taken,
but no one here will do anything until its too late,
Rhodes will "buy" his way to continue his water abuse, he doesn't care, as he lives elsewhere.
an updated water resource report? not gonna happen , until it affects some big shots or a state official!
I believe a "water management group" needs to formed, to review and help preserve the limited water available to our area.
do some reading and see how poorly Az will be when the Colorado river runs low, ( hint , calif will get 100% and AZ 0%!!)

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: Trained Observer

Chemicals leaching into ground water can be an issue. More than one community has had its water supply damaged this way.
The county needs to step it up for residents of this county with accurate data and put some protections in place. Instead I think they will do nothing and we will hear whining about the small number of jobs these "farms" provide. The usual suspects - the good ole boys will get some payoff from this and everyone else will be stuck.

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