Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just going with the flow...

Finally... finally there is some discussion and conversation, perhaps, starting to take place locally involving the very important subject of water and growth.

The Kingman Daily Loyd's dam finally broke after a few weeks of non blogging and offered up a very good post -- and I mean that with all sincerity -- on the important local subject. So of course I want to respond and hopefully continue a fountain conversation. We'll see.

Read the KDLoyd's post here.

The Mohave County water controversy continues to swirl. I think it is a very healthy exercise to get everything out on the table for all to take a good hard look at because the decisions of today are going to have a profound effect on everyone's future in this area -- especially the yet unborn.

And Loyd truly does offer up some things for the table that we'll get to, however I will point out some things along the way that perhaps are in varying forms of disagreement.

The most troubling aspect is that the pressure is on to make decisions before all the facts surrounding the upcoming water fights are even available. Specifically, I'm talking about the yet unfinished United States Geological Survey / Arizona Dept. of Water Resources (USGS/ADWR) Mohave County aquifer study that is still in the works. It may be well over a year before the final findings of that study are to be released.

Here I'll say to Loyd... it was about a month ago that you wrote in a comment at the site (paraphrasing here) that this USGS report would only be a 'best guess' practically admonishing what the report may eventually tell us. Many of us are eagerly awaiting the results of the findings as we all have an interest. Just a guess on my part here, the results will say there is water below us and our community is in no danger of not having ample supplies in the relative short term, say the next 50 years.

As for the distant future and the concern for the 'unborn', sure... big question marks. We'll stay tuned.

In the meantime, there is substantial evidence that screams caution and raises an adequate alarm that great prudence needs to be exercised in handing out permissions for industrial grade extractions of groundwater.

Yet Loyd never points us to any actual evidence, substantial or otherwise, to this fact. He will share a link to a report by the state of Arizona's water department that, if requested, merely promises to write legislative from back in 2006. This legislative action is just so darned important that it either must have already passed through and become law (so we need not worry even though the state has issued multiple water allocations in Mohave County since then) or... it is actually not all that important because whatever legislation ADWR had in mind hasn't been presented some three years later. I'll get to some other points on this in a bit.

Right now, there is little that prohibits anyone from poking a hole in his property and sucking out water for the enjoyment of that property. It is a fundamental right that goes with the property because there is little value to desert land without water -- a fact recognized by even the very first settlers to these lands. For decades it was the water rights that were sold because the land was deemed worthless.

Mmmmm... property rights. I love them.

Loyd then goes on to share his cherished chart that shows water level dropping some 60 feet in some 45 years in one well. I've linked to this chart multiple times and color me not impressed. We get it, the water in that particular well is dropping a little over a foot a year according to the chart.

This chart is certainly not indicative of the entire county or even the entire Hualapai Aquifer, only the water column that it measures. The indication is clear, however, that the area is being drawn on in excess of its recovery rate and has been since recording started. That leaves one conclusion very simple to arrive at -- the well will run dry in time.


But the next share from Loyd's blog is what I do appreciate... and why I want to see more conversation on the subject of water...

Could deeper wells solve the problem? It should be clear from the experience in the Phoenix area where over-drafting of the aquifer there has resulted in significant areas of subsidence causing the ground to settle. It is believed that the result is a compaction of the water bearing strata substantially reducing its ability to hold and retain water.

See... this is good stuff. Learned something new today and Loyd is responsible for that. However I have to wonder when the compaction leading to reduction in ability to hold water hypothesis becomes something more than a belief. I will say to this untrained scientific mind... it does sound certainly plausible though.

If a healthy aquifer is destroyed or damaged in that way, it might mean that the importation of water, either by pipeline or by rail could be the only recourse -- or the area will be abandoned in the long term.

But if we are to believe that the aquifers are already in a state of depletion (and I'm not questioning that belief), just what is this community doing about it?? There is only one inevitable outcome derived from depletion... but the question remains -- when??

I've never questioned the inevitability of running out of a needed resource... I mainly want to know when as in how soon?? Need a solution today?? Just how long do we have before something really needs to be implemented that secures a more permanent water supply??

I'll just go out on a limb and guess... not in my lifetime.

There is also an ADWR "Draft for Legislative Review" planning document in PDF format that refers to the 3 major aquifers, the Detrital Valley, the Hualapai Valley and the Sacramento Valley as being "Critical Groundwater Basins" on page 7. The document lists a wide range of problems that need to be addressed by the Arizona Legislature.

Strangely, I can't find the linked document on ADWR's website (the link comes from Loyd's website). No matter. Let's take a closer look at this document.


To create a stakeholder process that will identify a mechanism and necessary legislation to encourage and support local initiatives for planning, financing, developing and managing water supplies in critical groundwater basins.

You know, Loyd's a pretty funny guy. Read his rants against expanding the size of government sometime then check back as to why he wants the government to have even more control over our lives. Looks to me as if he is using this document only to make a case to 'manage' water supplies. From the very beginning I've been in favor of not only managing the supply but also developing (a bad word to many), planning, and financing water supplies... i.e. a solution for a more permanent water supply (even for the future and the 'unborn').

Go ahead and read the rest of the link... for all intents and purposes it is a document written by the head of the state water department offering to write legislation and nothing more.


1. Critical Water Resource Areas - Several non-AMA areas in Arizona have critical water resources problems that cannot be resolved under the current statutory authorities delegated to the state agencies, counties or other local governments.

And problems need solutions... it is very difficult to find solutions when hiding in a shell. See, water worry warts agree with me that there already exist problems but unlike me, they think the solution is to do nothing about it. Doesn't make sense to me either.

2. Water Management - The critical areas need different types and levels of water management to address the different water supply conditions, geography and water use patterns.


c. Maximum Management – To protect existing municipal water supplies and associated economies, some critical areas may need the ability to control and manage water supplies for all new water users. Water rights for existing users would need to be established so that vested uses would be protected from harm. If expensive water supplies are imported and recharged, protections may be needed to protect the banked water. If new development does not have sufficient water supplies or will deplete water supplies for existing users, requirements to use imported water may have to be adopted. Such areas will need to have extensive monitoring of water supplies and uses to provide the necessary information to plan for the sustainable supplies needed for growth and development.

Do we really need state legislation for any of the above?? I'm already on board with requiring some degree of imported water for large projects. Know who else is too?? The new solar power plant proposed in the Red Lake area. That's right, they are looking into 'importing' treated waste water to use to make those turbine thingys work.

3. Water Supply Development - All of these critical areas have insufficient water supplies to meet current and future water demands and to provide a stable economic environment for the future. The ability to develop new supplies of water is difficult for several reasons.

These should be good given the fact that some heavy water allocations were handed out to property owners in Mohave County after this document was produced. Again, this document doesn't deliver what Loyd is trying to tell us it is.

a. Funding limitations – water development projects are expensive, usually requiring long-pipelines, expensive pumping and treatment costs and the purchase of existing water rights.

You bet this sort of thing is expensive. But the aquifers are already in depletion so again, it is inevitable that these costs will come due some day. Probably after I'm long gone from this earth... but still. Just pass that off to the 'unborn' right??

b. Supply Limitations - the primary sustainable water supply for many areas is imported water from the Colorado River. New groundwater development projects in some locations may provide a supply of water for an interim period without severe impacts on the long-term availability of water resources or other environmental concerns.

Certainly back in 2006 the primary sustainable water supply would be the Colorado River... and it is likely that it would still be the most likely water supply from which to import from today. But what about in 10 years?? Or 50?? Or 100??

See, if mankind has the ability to import water today, surely they will find ways to import from other let's say more sustainable water supplies in the future. I just have more faith in humans than say Loyd does.

c. Competition for Supplies – the communities adjacent to the Colorado River and within the 3-County CAP area require water to meet growth and development needs. These communities and the critical groundwater areas of the state will be competing for the same water supplies to meet long-term growth needs. Those communities that have the organization and financing to obtain new water supplies may be more successful at obtaining new supplies.

I'll quibble with this one for a second. We have water that is needed for growth and development right now, what we'll need is the organization and financing to meet the needs of importing new water supplies. But it seems that certainly the water worry warts don't want any part of organizing and/or financing a secure and permanent supply. Where I differ is that growth will bring more stakeholders to the area with keen interest into developing a more secure and permanent supply of water.

d. Water rights and Environmental Impacts – the development of new water supplies may conflict with vested water rights, claims for federal or Indian reserved rights and surface water that supports environmental resources.

Easy solution, get the water from somewhere that doesn't have all these hang-ups. Last I heard, the oceans were going to rise because of global warming. We should do our part and recharge our vast aquifers with some of that ocean water... I'm kidding... sorta.

4. Limited Statutory Authority and Funding - Most local governments have limited authority and budgets to plan and develop water projects and water management structures to meet current and future needs.

I won't quibble with this one... at least not right now. Check back in 50 years though. Could change (hopefully).

The rest of the document goes on to address how best government might be involved to satisfy needed solutions in the future... but do you really want the state of Arizona to handle this?? This document is all about allowing the legislature solve whatever problems we may have here in Mohave County. I don't have nearly the faith that Loyd does in the government. Especially a government that at best has three elected representatives that are users of the water in the aquifers in Mohave County (only one at the moment).

Back at Loyd's blog...

The point I'm trying to make is that the Arizona Legislature must establish a workable water handling mechanism to insure that first users are not deprived enjoyment of their right to water at the expense of some vague or undefined use priority that to date has just ridden on the coat-tails of general property rights law.

Well I hope Loyd explains further on this one. I mean here he is asking for the government to insure that his water isn't deprived by some other property owner -- with rights of their own. So what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander??

No problem existed while this area was just largely ignored as a barren wasteland, but now that developers and industrialists have focused in on the resources available, the problem is going to mushroom like a nuclear explosion.

I guess I just missed out on Kingman's golden age. You know, the days of owning free enterprise print shops, barren wastelands, and crapping in outhouses. Great times I'm sure. Then came industrialists that produced toilets, indoor plumbing, etc. and it has all gone to shit ever since.

Again, there already is a problem that needs a solution. The aquifers are in depletion. The mushroom cloud is inevitable unless we find a solution. Loyd wants government intrusion, limiting property rights, and asks that we all hide in turtle shells.

So, the issues are complex and have very far-reaching ramifications. To minimize the importance or to stress jobs and economic progress as having some type of higher priority without a full and thorough knowledge of what we are dealing with is just an outright pillaging of resources at the expense of the future -- a method the human race has proven all too well as being the absolute masters.

I've never minimized the importance of searching for a solution for our future problems. It's just that I know without a doubt that shell hiding and leaving needed local solutions up to the State of Maricopa is folly. Instead I've come to know the reality of economic development and growth as a means to finding solutions. It will be incredibly tough to find financing for outhouses as they are a thing of the past.

I'll share some examples of private industries (you know, evil industrialist types) that have either done some already great things -- mainly for self preservation, or are in the midst of unveiling new technologies that will lead us to the solutions we'll eventually need anyway. I'll share those later on... it is still July so time remains for more water posts.

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