Rural Arizona groundwater bill languishes in the Legislature

Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2022 - 5:43pm
Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2022 - 2:50pm
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A bill to help rural Arizona manage its groundwater has stalled in the Arizona House.

For most of rural Arizona, groundwater use remains much as it did in the frontier — unmanaged, a race to the bottom in which the person who drills the deepest well wins.

But a number of communities are seeing the effects of this lack of regulation and have asked the state for help.

Haley Paul of Audubon Southwest said she’s hopeful that Rep. Regina Cobb’s bill to establish management districts will get a hearing.

“You know once the Legislature kind of gets through some of the stuff it’s working on right now hopefully they’ll turn their attention back to water, and we may see movement, and we’re hopeful that people are having those discussions on how we can do this. Because we need it. Communities are crying out for help,” Paul said.

She says that Cobb has introduced the legislation in the past but it has yet to gain traction.

Cobb has been trying to get ahead of rural Arizona’s groundwater problem for about four years.

The state’s rural groundwater is not regulated in any meaningful way, and some communities are starting to feel the impact as out-of-state companies take advantage of the lack of oversight.

Her latest effort was blocked by Gail Griffin, chair of the House Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee.

But she’s optimistic that something can be done in the future.

“Because this is something that should have happened a long time ago, and it hasn’t happened. So for me, it’s long overdue," Cobb said. "I don’t see it as something where we can wait a year. I don’t think we can even wait six months.”

She said she has discussed the bill with Griffin without resolving the matter.

“I don’t know that there will ever be a time that she’ll be supportive of it. I’m hoping she’ll be tolerant of it,” Cobb said.

She says it’s possible the matter could be taken up if Gov. Doug Ducey calls a special session on water.

Politics Water