Water Security: Why There Are Two Different Arizonas

By Kathleen Ferris

When it comes to water supplies in this extended drought, there seem to be two Arizonas. Most Arizona cities are reassuring their residents and businesses that water supplies are secure. In other parts of the state, there are relentless headlines about homeowners, businesses and farmers who are desperate for solutions as the water table drops and wells run dry.

Why you should be happy if you live in one of these Active Management Areas.

Why you should be happy if you live in one of these Active Management Areas.

Here is what makes all the difference: Active Management Areas or AMAs. Water users inside Active Management Areas live under the regulations of the 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management Act. There are five Active Management Areas that take in most of Maricopa, Pinal, Pima and Santa Cruz counties as well as the City of Prescott and surrounding communities. About 83 percent of the state’s population lives in Active Management Areas.

Many other parts of the state were excluded from the Act’s reach because landowners in those areas voiced concerns in 1980 about regulating groundwater supplies.

Here are five reasons why you should be happy you live in an Active Management Area:

1. Unrestricted groundwater pumping is not allowed. That means groundwater has been preserved for emergencies. It’s a water savings account. Just like a savings account at a bank, life is a little more comfortable when it’s there and gets precarious when it’s depleted.

2. Water conservation programs and practices are mandatory. Cities, industries and farms have invested for decades in ways to use water more efficiently.

3. Builders can’t create new subdivisions without a 100-year assured water supply and farmers can’t irrigate new fields. That protects the consumer and land values.

4. Cities and other water agencies have made significant investments to assure water supplies for the future. These investments include building the capacity to store large amounts of water underground for future use and to reclaim wastewater for reuse.

5. New businesses and industries are more likely to locate in Active Management Areas because the water supplies are secure. That means economic growth and jobs.

What can you do if you don’t live in an Active Management Area? Well, you can help your city, town or county work with the state to create reasonable regulations that allow homeowners, businesses and farmers to prosper. Here are the three regulations that will make the most difference.

1. Stop the expansion of irrigated farmland in areas where groundwater levels are falling. This will help ensure that existing farmers can continue to prosper.

2. Require developers to have an assured water supply in hand before building new subdivisions. Like farmers, water supplies for homeowners should be secure.

3. Put limits on the drilling of new wells to ensure that new wells don’t harm existing well owners.

These three actions may seem a tough political act of will now, but if they are not put in place soon, the future will be far more difficult.

For 46 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.