Arizona lawmakers advance bill to set up regulation of rural groundwater


Tony Davis 

Arizona Daily Star

On a party-line vote, an Arizona Senate Committee approved a bill Wednesday to establish a rural groundwater management setup that’s favored by many farming interest groups but opposed by many environmentalists and some rural community leaders.

The bill, introduced by Buckeye Republican Sen. Sine Kerr, would establish a complex legal and governmental process to designate groundwater basin management areas with the goal of reducing groundwater depletion while maintaining the area’s economy and agricultural base. The Republican-led Senate Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee voted 4-3 to support the measure.

It would allow some mandatory conservation measures while still protecting existing farmers’ groundwater rights, as certified by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. It would also appropriate $40 million to ADWR to pay for unspecified measures for farmers to achieve better water conservation.

An amendment approved unanimously by the committee made a concession to bill opponents, who had sharply criticized the measure’s original requirement that a groundwater basin be found to have an “accelerated” water level decline of at least 10 feet a year over 5 years before it could be considered for basin management.


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February 2024