Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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County to host state water authorities in groundwater talks

After years of effort by Mohave County and Kingman officials, state water authorities are expected to hear from local residents about Kingman’s rapidly diminishing water supply.

Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Thomas Buschatzke is scheduled to appear Tuesday evening for a special public meeting at the Mohave County Administrative Complex in Kingman. There, Buschatzke will hear from county residents and officials about the need for basin’s need for protection as a state-designated “Irrigation Non-Expansion Area.”

The distinction would protect the groundwater supply from future irrigation by farming interests, and prolong the sub-basin’s dwindling lifespan.

And that protection will be needed, according to a 2017 study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Without Buschatzke’s help, Kingman’s primary water supply could be depleted within the next century.

In 2017, Mohave County officials partnered with the city of Kingman, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arizona Water Science Center and the U.S. Department of the Interior to create a groundwater flow model for the 1,200 square-mile Hualapai Basin, and its three sub-basins. The study was expected to inform future decisions about the county’s water supply. But when that study concluded in 2019, it presented evidence of a greater need for conservation.

Almost 10 years ago, the Hualapai sub-basin was losing more than 5,600 more annual acre-feet of water than the basin could naturally recharge, even before agricultural interests settled in the area. Now, county records show that the sub-basin’s deficit may be about 30,900 acre-feet of water per year. As of 2019, U.S. Geological Survey officials said water levels in the sub-basin were falling annually by as much as 9.7 feet.

According to statements earlier this year by Mohave County Development Services Director Tim Walsh, almost 60% of the Hualapai Valley Sub-Basin’s supply of groundwater is used by agricultural interests in the Kingman area.

And if the basin’s water level were to fall below 1,200 feet above the mean sea level, Kingman’s primary water supply would become virtually unusable.

County records show that if Kingman’s demand for water were to grow by 2.5% within the next 30 years, with no new agricultural demand, groundwater levels within the Hualapai sub-basin would sustain Kingman for another 100 years.

According to Mohave County officials, there are 77,743 acres of farmland within the sub-basin area, but only about 8,400 acres are cultivated. If all of those acres of farmland were developed at once, however, the basin would be depleted in as little as 50 years.

But Walsh said earlier this year that even if the city experienced no further growth, expectations remained bleak – the Hualapai sub-basin would sustain Kingman’s needs for only another 143 years at current trends.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors has appealed to the Arizona Department of Water Resources for increased protection of the Hualapai groundwater sub-basin. But until now, the state agency may have hesitated to designate the aquifer as an “Irrigation Non-Expansion Area” due to state policy that prevented such a designation due to predicted future measurements, rather than based on present water supply.

County officials have sought to address the issue with injection ponds and other implements to recharge the basin in recent years, but none of the county’s efforts to date have been able to meet the sub-basin’s continuing deficit.

Now, county supervisors are urging members of the Kingman and unincorporated Mohave County communities to attend Tuesday’s meeting, either in person or online.

“Everyone in the Kingman and Vale Vista areas who are interested in this issue should make a point in participating in the meeting,” said Supervisor Travis Lingenfelter last week in a Today’s News-Herald interview. “It’s important to have your voice heard.”

The meeting is scheduled to take place starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at 700 W. Beale St. in Kingman. County residents who cannot attend the meeting in person may join via webinar at https://adwr.info/3CILWF9. Residents may also join via teleconference by calling 415-655-0001, with access code 2598 199 9129.

Public Meeting on the Hualapai Valley Sub-Basin

Speaker: Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Thomas Buschatzke

Where: 700 W. Beale St. in Kingman

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