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Sun, Jan. 26

State seeks comments on drought plan

Arizona is clearly one of the most arid states in the country, yet it also is one of the few Western states without a drought plan.

But a plan finally is in the works.

Sandra Fabritz of the Arizona Department of Water Resources briefed the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee about the new draft plan, which is officially ready for public comments.

“We’re far behind,” Fabritz said. “Arizona is one of the last states to develop a drought plan.”

The county water committee will ask its technical review group to offer comments about the draft.

The ongoing drought in the Southwest has put Yavapai County into a 17.2-inch precipitation deficit from October 2000 through May 2004, Fabritz said.

One major goal of the plan is to gather lots of existing information about the level of Arizona’s drought, such as precipitation and stream-flow statistics and soil conditions, which Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Herb Guenther will use to decide what stage of drought the state is in.

“There is tons of data everywhere,” Fabritz said. “It’s just that no one’s bringing it together.”

The state plans to post such information at the Web site address of www.water.az.gov/gdtf. The draft plan isn’t on the Web site yet, but is available via the Water Advisory Committee’s meeting agenda posted at www.co.yavapai.az.us.

The new drought plan has only one specific requirement, Fabritz said: all water system operators must submit a drought emergency plan. Most of them already do this, in that the Arizona Corporation Commission requires it of private water companies, she noted.

Other parts of the plan offer options for emergency response and mitigation in drought situations, Fabritz explained.

“The options are going to stay options unless I hear otherwise,” she said.

Another option within the plan allows local communities or watersheds outside active management areas (AMAs) to require new subdivision developments to prove they have a 100-year water supply, Fabritz said.

Developers inside AMAs already have to prove this. However, developers outside AMAs must notify buyers only that they don’t have a 100-year water supply.

Coincidentally, the water committee also heard about an Arizona Policy Forum recommendation that the state require all subdivision developers to have a 100-year water supply.

The Policy Forum, a policy think tank, also recommends that the state extend the 100-year supply requirement to individual residential wells.

And it recommends a $500 impact fee on new homes to provide seed money for water infrastructure needs around the state.

The water committee is inviting the Policy Forum to give a presentation at a future committee meeting.

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