Sun, Dec. 15

We are on a one-way street to water bankruptcy

Bob Womack's March 24 My Turn headlined "Doom and gloom water forecast all wet" concluded on the basis of the data presented that "Arizona has a healthy water supply..."

Leading to that conclusion was a comparison of watersheds between Massachusetts and Arizona including the stated results that Arizona has the same amount of water per capita as Massachusetts.

Let's take a look at the two states as they are an excellent example of water resources in our nation.

Arizona has 114,000 square miles with a population now approaching 6 million or about 50 people per square mile. Massachusetts has 9,200 square miles with a population of just over 6 million or over 800 people per square mile.

Arizona averages 12.48 inches of rain per year and Massachusetts averages about 43 inches of rainfall per year. Arizona has an evaporation rate of 90 to 100 inches per year, far in excess of its annual rainfall. Massachusetts has a 30-inch-per-year evaporation rate, less than its annual rainfall.

Thousands of miles of rivers and hundreds of lakes in Massachusetts testify to the benefits of having excess rainfall over evaporation. The Connecticut River in central Massachusetts flows at 7,190 cubic feet per second (cfs). and the Merrimack River in northeastern Massachusetts flows at 6,700 cfs. The Charles River, a small Massachusetts river on which shores I grew up, flows at 190 cfs.

The Verde River at Cottonwood flows at about 80 cfs. The Massachusetts rivers are flowing and have been continuously for millennia and will flow for millennia in the future. Just the average daily flow of the Connecticut River could completely fill an empty Lake Roosevelt in less than 90 days.

Mr. Womack describes a Burgess and Nipple report that states there is conservative 1.1 million acre feet of available water in our area and that it is renewable. Note that only 2-3 percent of the rainfall in the Verde Valley finally enters the water table. We mine more than that inflow, which is proven by our falling water tables and calculations by hydrologists on the area between Mingus Mountain and the Verde River. Thus the water is not being replaced and therefore not being fully renewed. The Verde River has already dried up in the upper two miles since I have lived here due to the water mining in Little Chino Valley to meet Prescott's critical need for water. The projections are for mining ground water in the Upper Chino Valley (water required by Prescott and the Ruskin land area) will eventually dry up the upper 10 to 15 miles of the Verde River, according to scientists.

The big huge difference between Massachusetts and Arizona, and the Verde Valley in particular, is that the water tables are declining throughout the Yavapai County communities. In Massachusetts, the water tables are stable. Clarkdale's single source of water for 70 years went dry after flowing water out on the surface without wells finally going dry in 400-foot wells. All of our communities are on a one-way street to water bankruptcy as long as the water tables decline.

It will not happen in my lifetime or in Mr. Womack's, but it will happen the same as the copper deposits of Jerome eventually were mined out and the same as the water in Haskell Springs in Clarkdale was overdrafted and mined out. The U.S. Geological Survey in a meeting in Flagstaff last fall said some of the waters being mined in their current Verde River study has been identified as thousands of years old. Massachusetts towns and cities drink water that is a few months old to a maximum of few years during drought conditions.

I cannot call Yavapai County's falling water table a "healthy water supply." Far more than "some management and conservation will serve our growth issues" over the decades and centuries to come.

Cottonwood resident Paul A. Handverger is a retired geologist.

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