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Are you as smart as a WRA policy expert?
Check your answers to see how much you know about groundwater and WRA’s work protecting the West’s water future!
1. Groundwater is largely unregulated in rural Arizona, but protections do exist in some areas of the state. Groundwater is managed in:
a. Active Management Areas and Irrigation Non-Expansion Areas.
Active Management Areas are specific areas in which groundwater is managed by the Arizona Department of Water Resources according to a framework established in the 1980 Arizona Groundwater Code. There are currently five AMAs in Arizona, mostly in the central and south-central parts of the state: Prescott, Phoenix, Pinal, Tucson, and Santa Cruz.
Irrigation Non-Expansion Areas (INAs) are areas in which no new irrigated acreage can be brought into production following the creation of the INA. There are three INAs in Arizona: Joseph City, Douglas, and Harquahala.
WRA is working to advance groundwater protections outside of these areas. In partnership with other conservation organizations, we are working with water users and stakeholders throughout the state to promote local management tools to help secure communities’ water future and groundwater dependent ecosystems.
2. Groundwater plays an important role in maintaining water levels in Arizona’s rivers, streams, and springs. What is the groundwater contribution to the flow of a stream called?
When groundwater seeps below the land surface and works its way down, it can also travel parallel to the ground and reemerge as water flowing in a stream channel — this contribution to the flow of a stream is called baseflow.
Baseflow from groundwater to streams is very sensitive to changes in groundwater levels. When groundwater is pumped, it lowers water levels in aquifers, even far away from the well. While the largest declines are near the pumping site, they radiate outward in every direction, similar to drinking a smoothie with a straw. In this way, rivers and streams can lose water due to both nearby well pumping and regional declines in aquifer water levels caused by over-pumping miles away.
This connection between groundwater and surface water is part of why WRA’s work promoting sustainable groundwater management is so important; maintaining groundwater levels is crucial to ensuring healthy rivers and streams in Arizona.
3. Arizona is currently seeing the consequences of unrestricted groundwater use, highlighting the urgent need to protect this water supply. Which one of these answers is a result of overusing groundwater?
d. All of the above
Unfortunately, Arizona is seeing all three consequences of allowing unrestricted pumping of groundwater in many areas: reduced flow in rivers and streams harming riparian habitats, lower water levels in aquifers leading to dried up wells, and large new agricultural users taking advantage of the absence of groundwater use restrictions.
The good news is, there are tools that have been developed around the West to protect groundwater and ameliorate these impacts. WRA, along with coalition partners in the Water for Arizona coalition, is promoting an array of tools that would allow communities to safeguard groundwater and meet their unique water supply challenges.
4. Fill in the blank: During the 2022 legislation session, WRA has been supporting a bill that would create ________ Areas that would enable local planning and management of groundwater resources in areas with identified water challenges.
b. Rural Management
WRA is advocating for House Bill 2661 this legislative session to help solve the problem of unregulated groundwater in Arizona. The bill would:
Allow counties to create Rural Management Areas (RMAs) to enable local planning and management of groundwater resources in areas with identified water challenges; and
Support these RMAs with $50 million in annual funding from the state lottery.
These RMAs would be created by county boards of supervisors for specific groundwater basins or subbasins. They would address local water issues by providing the tools and support needed for communities to protect their groundwater supplies.
If you answered these questions correctly, congratulations! You are a WRA groundwater policy expert!
Check out WRA’s groundwater page to learn even more about our work protecting this crucial water source.
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