Arizona Water News: September 2015

Arizona rejects San Simon irrigation restrictions

Tony Davis | Arizona Daily Star

Agricultural pumping can continue without limits in the far corner of Southeast Arizona.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources has denied a petition from five major growers that the Bowie-San Simon area be closed to new irrigation. The request had touched off a bitter, emotional conflict in which those growers were denounced as “tree barons” and monopolists as they fought new landowners and potential new irrigators from drought-stricken California, Phoenix and other places.

Wednesday’s state order was a big victory for dozens of landowners in that area who said the big growers were trying to squeeze out smaller ones. The big growers said they feared an influx of new farmers would threaten the stability of the aquifer. Opponents feared their property values would crash because they wouldn’t be able to sell their land.

It also means that a temporary freeze on new irrigation triggered by the filing of this petition last March will be lifted once the decision becomes final, which could happen by mid- to late September. [MORE]

Water stops, starts in rural Arizona

Zachary Ziegler | Arizona Public Media

Water is again flowing in the community of Bowie, though the local provider is asking customers to restrict their use for a few more days.

Wells run by the Bowie Water Improvement District went dry on Friday. The community is about 25 miles west of New Mexico along Interstate 10.

Dan O’Neal, the chairman of the District’s Board, said water service was restored Sunday, after the district drilled deeper to reach the dropping water level.

“Just as fast as we could, we fixed the little well, and extended it another 60 feet down so we got down into the water and everything,” O’neal said.

The Bowie Water Improvement District is a non-profit organization that serves about 500 people. Work crews coming later this week should return service back to normal.

“Wednesday or Thursday we’ve got a crew coming in and they’re going to pull the main well,” O’Neal said. “Then we’re going to extend the big well down another 80 feet if we can, and then we’ll be OK.”

Paying for that work could be the toughest part.

O’Neal estimates fixing the main well will cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

Southwest’s water crisis hitting Navajo people first — and hardest

Brandon Loomis, The Republic |

LEUPP, Ariz. – A lifetime of declining snowfall on the Navajo Reservation is making an already unforgiving desert landscape increasingly uninhabitable.

Snow tracked at six northeastern Arizona weather stations has plummeted by more than two-thirds on average since the 1930s, according to research led by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Dozens of streams that flowed year-round on the reservation now dry up seasonally, and the parched springs and wells along their banks send isolated residents on long drives for store-bought water.

Local temperatures rising on average 2 degrees Celsius since the 1960s have sapped moisture. The advancing water crisis here could be a preview of the Greater Southwest’s challenges, as warming winter temperatures morph snow into rain and accelerate evaporation across the highlands.

The Salt and Verde rivers, a crucial supplier to the Phoenix area, originate in the snows that ring the reservation along the Mogollon Rim. And the Colorado River, lifeblood of the entire Southwest, starts with Rocky Mountain snows that also are fading.

“It’s just hitting the Navajo people first,” USGS geomorphologist Margaret Hiza Redsteer said. [MORE]

Arizona’s water supply coming from Colorado River safe for now

Jim Cross | KTAR News

PHOENIX — Here is some great news for the millions who live in the Southwest: the Bureau of Reclamation confirmed that there will be no water shortage declared on the Colorado River next year.

The bureau’s report showed the anticipated level in Lake Mead on Jan. 1, 2016 will be 1,082 feet above sea level. Past that they are unsure. The Central Arizona Project indicates there’s only a 15 percent probability of a shortage being declared in 2017.

Those numbers are more than seven feet above the 1,075-foot level that would trigger a shortage declaration for the lower Colorado River.

Mitch Basefsky with Central Arizona Project said a spectacular May and June in the Rocky Mountains in the Colorado River Basin made that happen. [MORE]

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