Water study funding drained

Buster: Tough decisions are going to be made without the information to make those decisions

ADWR/Miner Graphic<BR><BR>
This map shows the three aquifers in Mohave County currently under study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Due to funding cuts, work on the study will end in 2011.

ADWR/Miner Graphic<BR><BR> This map shows the three aquifers in Mohave County currently under study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Due to funding cuts, work on the study will end in 2011.

KINGMAN - A seven-year study into the amount of water in the Detrital, Hualapai and Sacramento Valley basins may be in jeopardy. Representatives from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Geological Survey gave an update on the progress of the survey, which was to be completed in 2012.

"We came today because we may not be able to do this in January," said ADWR Regional Water Planning Division Manager Thomas Whitmer.

The state has cut funding to ADWR to the point that there is no more funding for the study, and the ADWR Rural Water Division may disappear entirely, he said. However, the USGS still has some funding and may be able to complete up to 75 percent of the original scope of the study by 2011 before it runs out of funding.

The remaining 25 percent of the study that may not be completed would include a numerical model from the USGS, Whitmer said.

The model would allow the county to plug numbers into a program and determine what effect a new commercial or residential development would have on the amount of water in a particular basin. "It's the most critical part of the study," he said. "Without the tool that can be utilized by the planners and the county and the cities and so on, it kind of makes it like, 'that's a nice study, thank you for helping us understand what we've got there, but when are we going to run out of water?' It's difficult to determine what the impacts are going to be long-term."

The counties need to put more pressure on the state to keep programs important to rural areas going, said Supervisor Buster Johnson.

Without information from the water studies of the three basins, the county could be years behind when new commercial and residential developments come into the area, he said.

"Without having newer data, some tough decisions are going to be made without the information to make those decisions."

ADWR and the USGS started collecting data about water in the three basins in 2006, said Brian Conway of ADWR. ADWR and USGS used more than 1,000 gravity measurements and water measurements from more than 300 wells to compile the information.

ADWR reports on the Detrital, Sacramento and Hualapai Valley basins have been completed, he said. ADWR is estimating that at 1,200 feet below the ground, there is between 1.5 and 3.9 million acre-feet of water in the Detrital basin, between 3.6 and 9.5 million acre-feet of water in the Sacramento basin and between 3.8 to 10.1 million acre-feet of water in the Hualapai basin.

However, due to geological formations and water quality not all of that water may be able to be used.

According to a report put out by the USGS on the three basins, water levels in monitored areas of the Detrital Basin have either remained the same or increased by as much as 3.5 feet since 1980. Similar conditions were found in the northern and central parts of the Hualapai Basin. Small increases in the water level were also found in the Sacramento Basin near Yucca and the Dutch Flats area.

However, declines in the water level, as much as 60 feet, were found in the Hualapai Basin near Kingman, northwest of Hackberry and northeast of Dolan Springs. Declines in water level, as much as 55 feet, were found near Kingman and Golden Valley in the Sacramento Basin.

The Detrital Basin serves the areas of Dolan Springs and White Hills. The Sacramento basin serves Chloride, Golden Valley, Yucca and parts of Kingman. The Hualapai basin serves Valle Vista, Hackberry, parts of Kingman and includes Red Lake.

The data has also provided the USGS and ADWR with a better understanding of different sub-basins within the larger aquifers and the flow of water within the aquifers, said Margot Truini from the USGS. Studies show that the water in the Detrital and Hualapai Valley basins flows north toward Lake Mead, and water in the Sacramento Valley Basin flows south to the Colorado River.

ADWR and USGS are also still trying to get a better idea of the amount of water that recharges the basins each year, she said. She showed the Board a slide showing the amount of rainfall in the three basins and the amount of recharge each basin was getting in comparison to the Verde River Valley in Arizona.

"For where this area is, you're not getting a whole lot of recharge," she said. "A certain threshold has to be reached where you have enough water hitting the ground that it's actually going to penetrate the ground before it evaporates or it is taken up by the plants.

"For there to be significant recharge, you would have to have a flow like this for quite a while," she said referring to a photo of a flooded wash in the county.

The USGS is now using the data gathered from the well studies to create a groundwater model that would show about how much water is in each basin and create a water budget that would show how much water is recharged into the basin and how much water is withdrawn each year, she said. That model and budget is expected to be finished by September of 2011.

Basin studies online

ADWR studies for the Detrital Valley Basin

• http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/Hydrology/Geophysics/documents/ADWR_OFR9_DetritalValley_001.pdf

•http://www.azwater.gov/azdwr/StatewidePlanning/WaterAtlas/UpperColoradoRiver/documents/Volume_4_DET_final.pdf

ADWR studies for the Hualapai Valley Basin

• http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/Hydrology/Library/documents/ADWR_OFR11_HualapaiValley_000.pdf

• http://www.azwater.gov/azdwr/StatewidePlanning/WaterAtlas/UpperColoradoRiver/documents/Volume_4_HUA_final.pdf

ADWR studies for the Sacramento Valley Basin

• http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/Hydrology/Geophysics/documents/ADWR_OFR10_SacramentoValley_000.pdf

• http://www.azwater.gov/azdwr/StatewidePlanning/WaterAtlas/UpperColoradoRiver/documents/Volume_4_SAC_final.pdf

USGS studies for the Detrital, Hualapai and Sacramento Valley basins

• http://az.water.usgs.gov/projects/9671-C9Z/