As an addendum to last week’s article, APW is also initiating a Groundwater Education & Conservation (GEC) program in Pinal County, where the importance of the agricultural perspective cannot be overstated. In the Pinal Active Management Area (AMA), the groundwater management goal is to preserve the agricultural economy for as long as feasible, while considering the need to preserve groundwater for future non-irrigation uses. Growing concerns that Pinal County will not be able to meet that goal for much longer has prompted efforts from all stakeholders to develop new conservation programs and to improve existing management practices. In the spring of 2020, The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) released a draft of the fourth management plan for the Pinal AMA, describing new requirements that will need to be met to sustain the agricultural economy while sustaining growth in other sectors.
One goal of the draft plan is a requirement that irrigation water providers line all canals or operate in such a way as to limit the water loss to 10% or less. Additionally, there is an effort to modify the point structure that qualifies a farmer for the agricultural best management practices program. To this end, ADWR is reconvening the Agricultural Water Conservation Best Management Practices (BMP) Advisory Committee, initially established by executive order in 2002, and renewed in November 2020 by Governor Doug Ducey. Farmers from the region who understand the importance of conservation are part of this discussion.
APW is participating in these meetings and working with all stakeholders in the County to design Pinal County’s GEC Program. To promote groundwater conservation, the new program will engage middle school students in learning about their community’s precious groundwater system and the challenges of managing it in the future. We hope to inspire new water stewards who will take action to conserve groundwater.