Slow pace of ADWR frustrates supervisors

KINGMAN - County Supervisors seemed bothered that little progress had been made by the Arizona Department of Water Resources on a water study of three aquifers in the area.

The Board on Monday gave $100,000 to ADWR to help expedite the study. The aquifers under study are the Sacramento, Detrital and Hualapai.

After hearing a 30-minute presentation from ADWR and the United States Geological Survey, Chairman Pete Byers quipped that he wanted his money back.

During the presentation, ADWR's Tom Whitmer explained some of the goals of the study including: identification of the size and shape of the basins, figuring out how the water flows through the aquifers, how best to budget the use of the water and identify how much water is in the aquifers.

A typical study of one aquifer can take between five and seven years, Whitmer said. ADWR was attempting to complete a study of three aquifers in the same amount of time.

He then turned the presentation over to David Anning, a representative from the United States Geological Survey. Anning explained some of the techniques his department uses to study aquifers. The department uses planes with special equipment that can scan through the first 1,000 feet of soil to determine what the soil is made of. Different types of soil store and recharge water differently. Bedrock doesn't hold much water, but a sandy soil does. The different types of soil can also give scientists an idea of how much water will flow through an aquifer, he said.

The USGS also uses ground-scanning equipment that can peer nearly 2,000 feet into the soil.

Both agencies also use well-drilling logs. They also use gravity-surveying equipment to determine how deep an aquifer might be. All the information gathered through the air and ground surveys is collected and a three dimensional model of the different aquifers is created. The model shows the different layers of soil and the approximate depth of the water in the aquifer.

A water flow grid can also be generated by the information collected in the study. The grid shows which direction the water in an aquifer flows and how quickly the basin recharges. Anning said preliminary data shows that some areas in Mohave County recharge as quickly as 3,000 to 5,000 years.

Anning and Whitmer both said more work needed to be done before ADWR and USGS could give any definitive information on the three aquifers.

Byers seemed irritated by the vagueness of study information and the fact that it seemed to focus on the Kingman area.

"What's up with that?" he asked. He also asked about a letter Supervisor Buster Johnson had sent to ADWR declaring that Kingman needed to redo its 100-year water supply. Byers wanted to know if the study was instigated by Johnson's letter to ADWR.

"It's really amazing to me that ADWR is making a frontal attack on Kingman from a letter from supervisor from another district," Byers said.

"We're not taking a frontal attack on Kingman. We're not attacking anyone actually," Whitmer said.

He also assured the Board that all three aquifers would be given the same attention in the study. Once the study was finished, the county would have a model of all three aquifers to draw data from, he said.