Valley should take page from water use lawsuit against Arizona

The group claims the state has mismanaged Arizona's water resources. Specifically, the group contends that years of overusing the state's groundwater supply has depleted underground aquifers and has caused severe damage to state rivers and streams. It specifically points to such problems to our own Verde River as well as the Upper San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers.

That is the very warning Verde Valley leaders have made for several years now. It's been a pressing concern since the communities in the Prescott area set their sights on the groundwater source that hydrological studies conclude represents the source waters of the Verde River.

Today, the flow of the Verde River is threatened both by a massive golf course subdivision — ironically, it was initially called the Headwaters Development — and the City of Prescott's plan to pipeline waters from the Big Chino aquifer for its domestic water needs.

The lawsuit by the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest contends that the state's water laws ignore the connection between groundwater and surface water. That flaw in the law, the suit claims, has allowed groundwater users to damage the state's rivers and streams.

While the focus of this lawsuit seeks a revamping of the law, Valley officials need to consider legal action of their own to at least temporarily halt the Prescott-area raid on Big Chino waters. Such a legal action could piggy-back on the claims in this lawsuit against the state and ask the courts to put both Prescott projects on hold until the validity of Arizona's water laws are resolved.

At the same time, even closer to home, the Cottonwood City Council should think twice about its consideration of the purchase of land in Page Springs specifically for the water rights. The issue will be debated at next week's meeting of the Cornville-Page Springs Community Association.

The Page Springs-Cornville area will grow just like the rest of the Verde Valley and that water source may be more appropriately used in the future to accommodate that area's growth over Cottonwood's.

This action by the City of Cottonwood very well may end up shooting the entire Verde Valley in the foot in its argument against the water-raid activities in Prescott.

Dan Engler, dengler@verdevalleynews.com

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