Friday, December 17, 2004
Water forum focuses on claims, illegal pumping: "FLAGSTAFF - Gov. Janet Napolitano was urged Thursday night to throw her weight behind getting the state's water claims adjudicated and cutting out unlimited water use in unregulated subdivisions. The calls came during a public hearing with about 150 people attending at Northern Arizona University. The governor's forum was the third of a series for Napolitano to get input on her draft plan for dealing with the Arizona drought, proposed in October. The state is in the ninth year of the worst drought in modern times. David Brown of St. Johns, chairman of the Apache County Board of Supervisors, said water apportionment negotiations have been 'paralyzed' among the Navajo, Hopi, Apache and Paiute tribes, and non-Indian interests seeking rights to some of that water. 'We need more help in forcing this issue to come to a head,' Brown said. 'This is critical to any planning in northeastern Arizona.' Bill Ulfelder, a spokesman for the Nature Conservancy in northern Arizona, said there are nearly 87,000 water wells in the region exempt from groundwater extraction regulations, including about 20,000 in Yavapai County outside the Prescott active management area. The state manages groundwater withdrawals within five urban areas for what is considered a secure 100-year supply of water. 'There's got to be a lot more done to control wildcat subdivisions and lot splits,' Ulfelder said. Camp Verde Councilman Tony Gioia said that recent studies indicate that 55 percent more water is being taken out of the Prescott groundwater basin than is being recharged, despite the management area designation. Gioia also said that groundwater drawdown around Camp Verde, outside the management area, has left only three of 14 wells operating. He fears an ominous future as the Prescott area moves toward pumping vastly more water from an area west of Camp Verde considered to be in the headwaters of the Verde River. The best solution for all, said Flagstaff Sierra Club spokesman Andy Bessler, is to create a statewide active management area."