One Drop at a Time

The heat is on, and the need for water is becoming increasingly important here in Arizona.

The problem is, there might not be enough to go around. Citizens of the Verde Valley recently came together in Clarkdale at the Memorial Clubhouse for Part 3 of a three-meeting series to discuss water issues such as conservation, appropriation, and well rights.

The Valley cannot continue to go back to the well, according to the presenters. Citizens of the Verde Valley need to find new water sources for the short and the long term. And as always, conservation is the key to ensuring that present water sources do not dry up.

Some suggested ideas were to provide penalties for excess usage of water, outlaw lawns, man made ponds, and pools and only wash cars at the car wash. No swamp coolers and citizen education were the main points discussed.

Greg Houtz of the Arizona Department of Water Resources' Office of Indian Water Rights Settlement Facilitation spoke about who owns water supplies. Simply, the state owns all the water, but the right to use it lies in individual people, he said.

Houtz also discussed prior appropriation. Prior appropriation is also referred to as "first in time, first in right." Unappropriated water, that is water that is not already spoken for, can be diverted for "reasonable and beneficial use."

Prior appropriation is perfected under state law, but the appropriation can be lost by non-use said Houtz. Appropriation can also be transferred, and it applies to groundwater as well as surface water.

Steve Rossi, manager of ADWR's Office of Assured Water Supply, brought up the heated issue of well rights. Right now, the department studies the supply of water, water appropriations, and conservation efforts. Under the Groundwater Code, which defines water rights, and the permit system, the requirements for drilling new wells are set.

The room began to heat up during the discussion of assured water supply. The rule of assured water supply assures that new subdivisions will have water for at least 100 years. The problem is, many of the larger commercial wells are depleting the small domestic wells.

Even though those domestic wells may have been around longer than those subdivisions, under the Assured Water Supply, those subdivisions are guaranteed water for 100 years, many times at the expense of local citizens. Many citizens inquired where is the protection for the small well owners vs. the larger businesses and subdivisions?

The meeting ended with the overall theme being that the water supply is running low, and all citizens need to do everything that they can to help in the conservation effort.

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