ADWR: Future development in Pinal County debates groundwater; ‘continued growth’ hangs in the balance, says Rose Law Group water attorney David Johnson

JACKIE WARING NEWS/21

By Aaron Dorman | PinalCentral

There is more future demand for water in Pinal County than can be satisfied by existing resources, officials say. And that demand will not be met by excessive pumping of groundwater.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources announced this week it will not approve any new applications seeking to use groundwater within the Pinal Active Management Area.

The decision came during a meeting on Monday of the Pinal County Groundwater Task Force, chaired by Pinal County Supervisor Steve Miller.

The ADWR’s decision has been known for a little over two weeks. ADWR Deputy Director Clint Chandler relayed that during a prior meeting with the leaders of the Pinal County Groundwater Task Force, ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke informed them that “the days of utilizing native groundwater for development in Pinal are over, it’s done.”

Chandler described their conversation as “candid and constructive” and said it was a “difficult assessment,” though one that people monitoring the situation could have anticipated. Chandler also emphasized that current Pinal County residents need to be protected as consumers first and foremost.

After the meeting, Miller reiterated this point, clarifying that the ruling will have no effect on the ability of local towns and cities to grow in the near term. Miller mentioned that Casa Grande has around 25,000 lots that already have an ADWR certificate. The city of Maricopa also has enough water resources to at least double in size over the next few decades.“I don’t want everybody to panic,” Miller said. “If you have a house in Casa Grande today, you will not run out of water. If you are building a house today you will be fine. We are working on solutions for water issues that will come into play decades down the road, not tomorrow.”

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Water Attorney with Rose Law Group (formerly with CAP), David Johnson, attended the meeting and says “ADWR’s position has a number of nuances that need to be further explored but the conclusion – absent a seismic shift in state law, future residential development in Pinal will not occur with groundwater – is something we need to resolve for continued growth.”

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