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Water Resource Issues in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area - Planning and Conservation

A number of water resource issues have been identified in the planning area by community groups through the distribution of surveys and from other sources.  Areas covered in this section include Planning and Conservation, Watershed Groups and Studies, Surveys and Tribal Issues. Primary issues are the accessibility of groundwater supplies in some areas due to hydrologic conditions and water quality problems.  There are also infrastructure deficiencies that influence access to water supplies.  A number of communities lack financial resources for infrastructure development or repair and drought has impacted surface water supplies.  The ability to meet future water demands is a concern for many communities. The North Central Arizona Water Supply Study (which includes Flagstaff and the western portion of the planning area and the Western Plateau Planning Area) concluded that by 2050 the region’s groundwater pumping would not be sustainable and that unmet demands will be more than 7,000 acre-feet annually. Many Navajo communities also currently face critical water shortages.  Water hauling is commonplace on the reservation, in part because widely scattered housing makes direct water delivery impractical in many areas.  Hauling is also common at some locations outside of the reservation.

Planning and Conservation

Many communities in the planning area are rapidly growing and physical and legal availability of water is a challenge in some places. As mentioned previously, the communities of Flagstaff, Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low, Snowflake, and Taylor are required to include a water resources element in their general plans because of their size and/or rate of growth. Although not required by law to include a water resources element in the county’s comprehensive plan, Coconino County has done so. The County Plan emphasizes conservation in tandem with resource development and recognizes the importance of incorporating climatic variability into water resource planning (Coconino County, 2003).

The City of Flagstaff adopted a Regional Plan with a Water Resources Element in 2002. The water resources element includes information on the water and wastewater system and an analysis of future growth and water requirements (City of Flagstaff, 2001).  Flagstaff has an active conservation program that includes an extensive reclaimed water system, education, and a staggered landscape watering schedule.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has produced rapid watershed assessments (RWA) for the Silver Creek, Chevelon Canyon and Little Colorado River Headwaters Watersheds. A RWA is a concise report containing information on natural resource conditions and concerns at the 8-digit HUC level. They are intended to provide sufficient information and analysis to generate an appraisal of the conservation needs of the watershed as well as serve other uses (NRCS, 2008, 2007a, 2007b).

As mentioned previously, all community water systems in Arizona are required to submit a water system plan as part of the State’s Drought Preparedness Plan. The system water plan includes a water supply plan, water conservation plan, and drought preparedness plan. Water providers are required to develop the plan to ensure they reduce their vulnerability to drought and prepare to respond to potential water shortage conditions.

Silver Creek

Silver Creek near Taylor and Snowflake

As part of implementation of the State Drought Plan, Local Drought Impact Groups (LDIGs) are being formed, as necessary, at the county level. LDIGs are voluntary groups that will coordinate drought public awareness, provide impact assessment information to local and state leaders and implement and initiate local drought mitigation and response actions. These groups are coordinated by local representatives of Arizona Cooperative Extension and County Emergency Management and supported by ADWR’s Statewide Drought program. Information on LDIGs may be found at the department’s website. To date, the only LDIG in the Planning area is in Navajo County.



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