Bills that would strengthen rural groundwater rules die in Arizona Legislature

In southeastern Arizona, farms are drilling wells up to 2,500 feet deep. Water levels are dropping and some homeowners are struggling with the costs.
/Screengrab/Arizona Republic video

By Ian James | The Republic

Two bills that would make it easier for state regulators and county officials to limit well-drilling and groundwater pumping have died in the Arizona Legislature despite support from lawmakers and pleas from county officials who are asking for help to protect their rapidly declining aquifers.

Republican and Democratic legislators proposed 12 bills this year that would strengthen groundwater rules and oversight in rural areas where pumping is unregulated and where farms aren’t required to report how much water they’re using.

But some of the bills have faced opposition from the agriculture industry, and none of the proposals have reached a vote in the state House or Senate.

The powerful leaders of the House and Senate water committees have refused to allow votes on the bills and have declined to take up many of the proposals for discussion.

Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, sponsored two bills aimed at starting to address the problems in unregulated rural areas where large farms have been drilling many new wells and where groundwater levels are dropping.

When Rep. Gail Griffin, the Republican chairperson of the Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee, declined to take up the bills, Cobb instead held an informational hearing for the proposals on Monday in the Appropriations Committee, which she chairs, so that the measures would at least be discussed.

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