Drought plan may get new ‘teeth’<br><i>Official says governments could see mandates</i>
A state official warned the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee Wednesday that a draft statewide drought plan may end up including mandates for local governments.
While the original draft Arizona Drought Preparedness Plan focused on background information and guidance for governments, the governor’s office recently pushed for more teeth in the plan, said Tom Whitmer, manager of statewide water planning for the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
He advised the water committee to get involved in the plan drafting process. The Governor’s Drought Task Force still aims to finish its draft plan by the end of July despite last-minute changes.
"That’s a very short time frame to start throwing teeth into the plan," Whitmer said. "This is more of a red flag to you…because we don’t know where it’s going at this point."
The task force now is considering mandates that especially would affect rural areas, Whitmer said.
For example, the draft plan now recommends that the state require local water providers to provide drought mitigation and/or conservation plans to the state, said Sandy Fabritz, task force lead coordinator.
Such additions probably would require legislative approval.
The governor’s office hasn’t yet reviewed her additions based on that office’s comments, Fabritz said.
The final plan is due Sept. 15.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the Water Advisory Committee:
• Agreed to ask the county Board of Supervisors to allow the committee to seek a $600,000 U.S. Bureau of Reclamation grant.
The committee would use the money to conduct a groundbreaking study of the impacts of trace organic compounds in recycled wastewater on groundwater when local governments recharge the effluent into aquifers.
Prescott and Prescott Valley are among numerous governments and water companies that recharge effluent back into their aquifers to increase groundwater supplies.
"If we’re going to be pumping used water into our system, I want to know what I’m drinking," committee member Diane Joens said.
•Heard a presentation from NEMO (Non-point Education for Municipal Officials and other land-use decision-makers) program manager Kristine Uhlman of the University of Arizona.
The NEMO program seeks to help local officials protect the quality and quantity of their watersheds, Uhlman explained.
NEMO already has created Verde watershed maps that show drainages, geology, precipitation, erosion-prone areas, population densities, major mine sites, wilderness areas and vegetation.
NEMO’s first priorities are the watersheds of the Verde, Bill Williams and upper Gila, she said.
More information about NEMO is available on the Web at www.smr.arizona.edu/nemo.