August 4, 2009

Worries over Arizona water supply

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Rural Arizona is searching for a stable source of water. The existing patchwork system of wells and reservoirs is wearing thin, Shaun McKinnon writes in the Arizona Republic. Flagstaff water-resources Chief Brad Hill told the Republic that the rural parts of the state need to plug into the Colorado River. But competition for that water is also fierce. In the meantime, rural communities wrestle with how best to balance growth with water needs.  In urban centers, new developments must verify they come packaged with a 100-year water supply before they are allowed to be built. Rural towns have no such restrictions.

There’s been as steady drain on underground water reserves in the state, McKinnon writes in an earlier extensive story. Excessive reliance on groundwater supplies could prove “potentially disastrous,” resulting in wells running dry and aquifers collapsing. Such failures could alter the landscape itself, creating fissures and sinkholes. Drought and climate change are also straining surface-water supplies at the same time that groundwater resources are shrinking. Herb Guenther of the Arizona Department of Water Resources told McKinnon: “What we have to do is get out of denial.”

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