Audubon: Arizona communities should be able to protect their groundwater resources

On September 20, 2021, Haley Paul, Policy Director of Audubon Southwest, testified before the West Mohave County Basin Water User Review Committee, in support of strengthening groundwater management that would allow local communities located outside of the most populated areas of Arizona to develop their own rules on the use of groundwater:

Madam President, members of the committee,

My name is Haley Paul and I am the policy director for the National Audubon Society here in Arizona.

Audubon is part of the Water for Arizona Coalition, a group of pragmatic, solutions-oriented conservation organizations dedicated to advancing water policy issues in Arizona for the benefit of Arizona residents and the environment.

One of those water issues we have been working on is groundwater outside of actively managed areas. As my colleague Kevin Moran told you last month, we care about this issue because 40% of Arizona’s water supply comes from groundwater, and in some places in Arizona, water comes from groundwater. underground are the only source of water for communities. We believe that communities should have a say in their water future and have the capacity to protect their water supplies in the long term.

In addition to the drop in groundwater levels, the drying up of individual wells and the threat to community water supplies, we have seen what the impacts of unconstrained pumping of groundwater can do on our rivers. , streams and springs, which I would like to highlight today.

As conservation organizations, we care about the management of our groundwater resources because it is an essential water supply, but also because groundwater is essential. essential the maintenance of rivers, streams, springs and surrounding habitat. Groundwater dependent ecosystems are home to an abundance of plants and animals and are a lifeline in our arid environment. Essentially, all of Arizona’s rivers that still flow year round are fed by groundwater. Arizona’s thousands of springs also depend on groundwater.

A study by the Springs Stewardship Institute found that the flow decreases in the sources of the Verde River groundwater basin, due to both the pumping of groundwater and the decrease in natural recharge due to rain. and the snowmelt. Studies also show declines in some sources in the Grand Canyon area. Extensive research in the San Pedro, Santa Cruz, and other desert rivers shows how unrestricted pumping of groundwater can dry up rivers that once flowed year round.

These iconic waterways aren’t just great bird habitat, they’re an economic powerhouse for the state, with outdoor recreation along the water in Arizona a $ 13.5 billion industry. supporting 114,000 jobs.

Given the importance of groundwater to people and nature throughout Greater Arizona, we believe communities should be able to conserve and protect this resource for the future. That’s why we’re so grateful for Representative Cobb’s leadership, and why the Water for Arizona Coalition encourages and supports local voices to be part of the conversation.

It is clear that communities need new tools to manage their groundwater supplies. What we have now is not working for rural Arizona. We appreciate the work of this committee, which highlights the need to protect the groundwater of Greater Arizona.

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