Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.
KINGMAN – While a legislative bill to monitor groundwater usage in Mohave County failed in its first attempt, the Board of Supervisors moved forward Tuesday on another study to show just how much water is being drained from the Hualapai Basin every year.
The board voted unanimously to approve paying for the county’s portion of the $449,300 U.S. Geological Survey study over three years. The first year’s funding of $79,650 would come from the 2018 Flood Control District Budget.
The city of Kingman is being asked to join the county in an intergovernmental agreement, and the city council was scheduled to vote on the IGA at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Jamie Macy, hydrologist with the USGS Arizona Water Science Center in Flagstaff, laid out the scope of the study for supervisors in a slide presentation describing the groundwater flow model that will be used to determine levels of decline.
He used a similar study of the San Pedro Basin in Southern Arizona to show how depletion levels increased from the 1930s to 2002, when area farmers had to cease operations.
“What we’ll do in Kingman is project into the future using our model with scenarios of increased pumping and increased recharge of the basin,” Macy said.
Macy reminded supervisors that he had talked to them three years ago about groundwater declines. USGS had found 5,600 acre-feet of groundwater leaving the Hualapai Basin on an annual basis in 2008.
With the post-2008 withdrawals that include new agricultural operations, the deficit grew to 8,000 to 10,000 acre-feet in 2014, 23,000 acre-feet in 2015 and 32,500 acre-feet in 2016, Macy reported.
The proposed USGS study would monitor groundwater through gravity network measurements from stations placed in the Hualapai Basin, he explained.
The second phase of the study would revise the model with inclusion of various recharge and withdrawal scenarios.
The USGS may be able to contribute $15,000 to the study through federal grants, Macy added.
Nick Hont, who retired in February as Mohave County’s director of Development Services and is serving as a consultant on groundwater recharge, said the study will serve as the first step toward determining rates of withdrawal from the basin.
Mohave County citizen Gene Bishop said he fully understands the complications of measuring groundwater use, but all of the studies have already shown the levels are declining.
“What I don’t understand is why the county doesn’t have long-term vision at looking at laws regarding permits for irrigation,” he said. “After you find out – again – that we are in discharge, what is the vision of existing laws to obliterate this future problem?”
Supervisor Steve Moss brought up House Bill 2520 by Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, which was voted down 5-3 by the Arizona House Land, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
“The county is trying, but does not have the power,” Moss said. “All we can do is persuade the state Legislature that cities and counties should have more say in water usage.”
In other agenda items:
• The board voted 5-0 to deny a petition to pave a three-quarter mile section of Jane Avenue. Public Works Director Steve Latoski said road handles about 170 vehicles a day, and the petition was recommended for denial by the county Transportation Committee. County Administrator Mike Hendrix added that the road has no benefit to the public. It doesn’t run to a highway or park or other connecting roads, he said.
• The board directed staff to work with the city of Kingman on the possibility of using the County Administration Building auditorium for city council meetings. Supervisor Jean Bishop said current council chambers are often overflowing with people who have no place to sit.
• The board voted unanimously to continue supporting Congressional bills that authorize the Secretary of Interior to convey certain federal lands to qualified local entities. Supervisor Hildy Angius said she’s been following the progress of one such bill, H.R. 6344. “It ain’t going nowhere in Washington,” she said. “They haven’t appointed a new BLM director. I don’t see anything moving.”