Megadrought Discussion — High Country News Radio & Streaming
Tune into kvnf.org on April 8 at 6 p.m. to hear “When in (Mega?) Drought,” HCNU classroom program’s inaugural live radio discussion Soundtable.
The West is experiencing severe drought in many of its states, and as we head into summer, much of the snowpack is abysmally low. Which makes us wonder:
Are we in a megadrought, and if so how do we secure a well-watered future for the American West?
We’ve put together a panel of experts to answer that question, and we’ll be hosting a live radio discussion with them next month. You can listen to it via an online live-stream and then tweet us questions for the experts. It’s the first of what we hope will be many “Soundtable” events. But we need your help to make it work!
HCN’s associate editor, Brian Calvert, will moderate the discussion with the following experts: Patricia Mulroy, former general manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority; George Frisvold, an agricultural economist at the UA; Jennifer Pitt, director of the Colorado River Program for the Environmental Defense Fund; and Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the UA.
We will broadcast and live stream from our local radio station, KVNF, in Paonia, Colorado. We’ll take “tweet-in” questions during the broadcast: @highcountrynews #HCNU or send your questions in advance by emailing them to Brian Calvert.
ADWR Completes Water Well Sweep of Willcox Basin
Carol Broeder, Willcox Range News
The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) has now completed its water well sweep of the Willcox Basin, which took place from December 2014 through February of this year.
“Well owner interest and cooperation were outstanding and made the survey a success,” said ADWR Public Information Officer Michelle Moreno.
ADWR field staff obtained more than “500 depth-to-water (DTW) measurements during the recent sweep from wells located throughout the Willcox Basin,” she said.
The Willcox Basin spans a little more than 1,900-square miles and encompasses Willcox along with the Pearce-Sunsites area.
Moreno said the wells tested are used for a “wide variety of purposes,” including agricultural, domestic, stock, municipal and industrial.
ADWR data collection efforts
The last water well sweep of the Willcox Basin took place in 2005, during which more than 800 water level measurements were obtained, she said.
Combining the DTW measurements from wells measured in both 2005 and 2014-15 provides a means of determining water level changes that have occurred over the last 10 years, Moreno explained.
She notes that this is preliminary information and therefore subject to revision.
A review of the data shows that “about 350 wells measured in both 2005 and 2014-15 showed water level declines that averaged -25 feet, and 39 wells measured had water level rises that averaged nine feet,” Moreno said.
Water levels generally declined in most parts of the Willcox Basin, except in the mountainous areas of its southeastern portion near Pine and Turkey Creeks, she said.
Young Farmer Saves Water in Innovative Ways
Zach Hauser makes a mark in Arizona’s picturesque Verde Valley.
By Carmen Russell in Camp Verde, Arizona, for National Geographic
On a cold and dry December Friday, Zach Hauser is getting ready for a weekend of hunting. The next morning at about 4 a.m., he and a handful of friends will make a nearly three-hour uphill trek into the Arizona woods. There they will tread quietly looking for elk and whitetail deer. On occasion, they come across a mountain lion.
They will probably return late the same night, but “if we get something, we might stay the night and sleep on the ground,” Hauser says. “It’s better to carry it back in the morning.”
Other weekends Hauser might go snowboarding up in Flagstaff or visit his grandmother in Montana. December through mid-January is one of the few periods during the year when Hauser can leave the land he has known as home his whole life.
By late January it’s time to start getting back to the seven-day workweek. That’s when it’s time to plant the wheat, which he tries to get into the ground just before the annual late winter rains.
“I’m always watching the weather then,” Hauser explains. “If we get enough rain in January and February, we don’t have to irrigate until March.”
Hauser takes water seriously. Because his farm sits on dry land in central Arizona, Hauser relies on the Verde River, as do most residents of the small town of Camp Verde, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Phoenix. His 600-acre family farm is one of the largest users of water in the area, and he treats conservation as a personal responsibility
“The river holds the key to our future around here,” he says. “Without it there probably wouldn’t be any farming here at all.”
Hauser never really thought of himself as an environmentalist. But simple pragmatism has led him to join the frontline effort to save the Verde, a river that supports 10 native species of fish, more than 90 species of mammals, and the highest avian density in recorded American history.
“I would rather be part of the solution than part of the problem,” he says matter-of-factly.