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Central Highlands Planning Area Cultural Water Demand - Agricultural Demand

Cultural water demand in the Central Highlands Planning Area averaged approximately 83,200 AFA during the period from 2001 to 2005.  As shown in Figure 5.0-19, the agricultural demand sector was the largest use sector with approximately 37,500 acre-feet of demand, 45% of the total.  Municipal demand was the second largest water demand sector with about 33% of the total planning area demand or an annual average of 27,400 acre-feet during the period 2001-2005. Municipal demand is primarily met by groundwater.  Industrial demand, mainly related to mining, accounted for 18,300 acre-feet, 22% of the total average demand during this period. 

Table 5.0-19 Cultural Water Demand by Sector in the Central Highlands Planning Area 2001-2005 (in acre-feet)

Click to view Figure 5.0-19

Table 5.0-14 Average Annual Agricultural Demand

Table 5.0-14

Agricultural Demand

Agricultural demand in the planning area averaged about 37,500 AFA, or 45% of the total cultural demand during the 2001-2005 time-period.  Most irrigation was for pasture.  As listed in Table 5.0-14, there is agricultural demand in all basins but most (72%) was located in the Verde River Basin.

An estimated 6,400 acres were in agricultural production in the Verde River Basin, primarily in the Big Chino and Verde Valley sub-basins.    Total demand was estimated at 27,100 AFA.  The predominant crop grown was pasture, which is typically deficit irrigated.  Groundwater was the primary supply in the Big Chino Sub-basin while surface water was predominantly utilized in the Verde Valley Sub-basin. 

Approximately 11,000 AFA of groundwater was withdrawn during 2001-2205 basin wide (USGS, 2007).  An additional 15,200 AFA was diverted in the Verde Valley Sub-basin and 700 AFA in the Big Chino Sub-basin during this period.  Detailed maps showing recent and historic irrigation in the Big Chino and Verde Valley sub-basins and much of the Verde Canyon Sub-basin are found in the Verde River Watershed Study Report (ADWR, 2000). This study also includes a description of  the irrigation associations, including information on acreage, water supply and facilities. More recent maps of irrigated lands are found in the WAC and BOR Reports (WAC, 2004 and BOR, 2003).

Most recent irrigation in the Big Chino Sub-basin is located along Big Chino Wash about 15 miles northwest of Paulden, along Williamson Valley Wash and near Paulden.  A smaller number of acres have been irrigated in the Walnut Creek area near the western sub-basin boundary.  Irrigation methods were predominantly flood or sprinkler irrigation. Pasture was the most prevalent crop as well as alfalfa, small grains and corn. (WAC, 2004)

About 30 irrigation associations recently diverted surface water in the Verde Valley Sub-basin. Most of the irrigated lands in the sub-basin were located along the Verde River or its major tributaries.  During drought, approximately 1,200 irrigation wells in the Verde Valley may have been used to meet irrigation demands.   Agricultural lands were located primarily along the Verde River north and south of Camp Verde, where a number of ditch companies have served water to about 2,800 acres.  Irrigated lands were also located near the communities of Cornville and Page Springs.  Pasture was grown on about two-thirds of the irrigated land. Other crops included alfalfa, corn, wheat, vegetables and orchards. (ADWR, 2000)

Although agricultural demand estimates are uncertain in parts of the planning area due to a lack of both reporting and recent field studies, it does appear that agricultural demand has declined in the Verde River Basin compared with demand prior to 1990.  Agricultural demand may continue to decline in part due to groundwater transportation activities. In 2004, the City of Prescott, in partnership with the Town of Prescott Valley, purchased the JWK Ranch in the Big Chino Sub-basin for the anticipated purpose of retiring agricultural use and pumping groundwater to the Prescott Active Management Area pursuant to A.R.S.§ 45-555.  The final determination of the allowable transportation volume has not been made.

Small areas of irrigated acreage were located in the Agua Fria Basin north of Cordes Junction and in the Upper Hassayampa Basin north of Wagoner (see Figures 5.1-10 and 5.4-10).  An estimated 1,500 AFA of groundwater was withdrawn during 2001-2005

Agriculture in the Verde River Basin

Agriculture in the Verde River Baisn. Most (72%) of agricultural demand in the planning area is in the Verde River Basin.

In the Tonto Creek Basin the Gisela Community Ditch Association has delivered surface water diverted from Tonto Creek through a 3-mile long ditch to about 144 acres near the community of Gisela, east of Rye (see Figure 5.3-10).  Reportedly, much more water was diverted than used due to system configuration, but the excess was assumed to return to the creek.  Agricultural lands consisted of pasture and orchard.  Some acreage may have been irrigated with groundwater. (ADWR, 1992)  A relatively small amount of groundwater-supplied irrigation also occured in the lower reaches of Tonto Creek.  A total of 1,500 AFA of groundwater and surface water was used during 2001-2005.  The USGS recently estimated that about 270 acres were actively farmed in the Tonto Creek Basin (USGS 2007).

Annual agricultural demand in the Salt River Basin was estimated at about 7,200 acre-feet between 2001-2005 and was primarily associated with pasture irrigation for livestock raising operations.  Most of the irrigated areas were in Pleasant Valley near Young and near the community of Fort Apache.  An estimated 3,200 acre-feet of demand was located on non-reservation lands with about 650 acres in production.  Approximately 2,700 acre-feet of surface water and 500 acre-feet of groundwater were used.  Historically, small tracts of irrigated land were located throughout the basin including along the Salt River upstream of Roosevelt Lake, north of Globe and in the White Mountains. Recent field investigations have not been conducted in this basin and the USGS National Gap Analysis Program did not identify irrigated acreage in these areas (see Figure 5.2-11).  Agricultural demand on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation was estimated to be about 3,700 acre-feet of surface water with 1,050 acres in production.  Only about 20 acres were irrigated with surface water and 200 acre-feet of groundwater on the portion of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation located in the planning area, with an associated demand of about 70 AFA. (ADWR, 1992)


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