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11:43 AM Wed, Dec. 12th

White Hills plans in limbo

Agency skeptical water supply adequate for two massive subdivisions

KINGMAN – As Mohave County continues to grow rapidly, the state is finding that the water supply may not be adequate for some planned developments.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources last week issued a preliminary determination that two master-planned communities in White Hills had an inadequate water supply to cover the proposed number of lots. While leaving the window open for reconsideration if more information is presented, this determination could grind plans to a halt. The Villages at White Hills, proposed by Las Vegas developer Jim Rhodes, and the Ranch at White Hills, proposed by Las Vegas developer Leonard Mardian, are directly impacted by the determination.

Outside of an Active Management Area, the ADWR requires developers to prove a 100-year water adequacy. In its analysis of adequate water supply, ADWR determined that the two communities would introduce an excess of 62,000 lots to the area and require approximately 25,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year. In the assessment, ADWR determined, “…based on information that is available, the Department feels that it is unlikely that adequate supplies of groundwater are physically available for the proposed uses in the pending applications.”

ADWR said that these communities would affect all the Hualapai Valley, Sacramento Valley and Detrital Valley water basins.

While this determination states that the water is not available, ADWR standards said that this decision does not necessarily stop the plans from moving forward. According to ADWR regulations, a developer is only required to inform buyers that an inadequate amount of water exists.

However, Mohave County has placed a requirement on the final plat approvals that a development have the 100-year adequate water supply designation. Without it, county officials say they will not allow it to proceed at its proposed level, something the county has never quite been sure would hold up in court.

“Of the Detrital Valley, Sacramento Valley and Hualapai Valley basins,” said District 1 Supervisor Pete Byers, “two of them affect Kingman and Golden Valley. They affect most of my district. I certainly don’t want to allow a big housing development that would be detrimental to the rest of my district. I’m not going to be in favor of that no matter who they are or what else is going on.

“I’ve said all along,” Byers continued, “that if they can prove there is plenty of water there, they can develop their property. I believe in property rights. I’m not going to change the law because a few people don’t want to see nice homes go in near their mixed-development area. At the same time, I’m not going to allow a developer to build something that will hurt other property owners.”

Information on the three aquifers is limited at this time. A study, which will use the combined efforts of the ADWR and the United States Geological Survey over the next five years, is ongoing to more adequately determine the amount of water stored in these wells.

While ADWR has left it open, saying, “Of course, the Department will fully consider any and all new information that you may submit,” Director Herbert Guenther has said to Byers that it is unlikely that these developments would obtain the certificate of adequate water.

Guenther said that both applications have been filled out completely, however, some of the information turned in is not necessarily correct. Therefore, no priority has been established for either development. It is possible if one completes everything correctly before the other one, one could get an adequacy determination over the other. Guenther said that Mardian has turned in more information; however, ADWR has not evaluated it yet.

“Water availability is primary to the continuation of life in Arizona,” Byers said, “as is good planning for clean growth, economic development and good jobs, and the need for improved infrastructure to meet the demands of our residents’ future lifestyles.”