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Cultural Water Demand in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area - Agricultural Demand

Cultural water demand includes four categories: Tribal, Municipal, Agricultural and Industrial

Agricultural Demand

Agricultural demand on non-tribal lands has significantly declined from historic levels. Cessation of some agricultural irrigation has occurred recently in the Hunt Valley area and near Saint Johns due to purchase by the Zuni Tribe to preserve tribal water resources at Zuni Heaven, a historically riparian area sacred to the Zuni.

Areas of greatest non-Indian agricultural irrigation are near the communities of Saint Johns, Springerville, Snowflake/Taylor, Joseph City and Holbrook. In some areas, particularly Snowflake/Taylor, the proportions of surface water and groundwater used varies significantly from year to year with fluctuations in precipitation. Agriculture on the Navajo and Hopi reservations is served primarily by surface water and land is also dryland farmed (“traditional” farming). As mentioned above, “non-traditional” Indian agricultural demand is estimated to be about 1,550 acre-feet. Dryland farming utilizes water harvesting techniques to catch and direct runoff to crops. Because there is no supplemental irrigation, both spring soil moisture and late summer precipitation are needed for success. It is estimated that approximately 8,800 acres in the planning area are actively irrigated with a combination of 42,950 acre-feet of surface water, groundwater and effluent.  Agricultural demand is summarized in Table 2.0-11.

Table 2.0-11 Average annual agricultural demand (in acre-feet)

  1991-1995   (acre-feet) 1996-2000     (acre-feet) 2001-2005     (acre-feet)
Non-Indian Total 51,200 37,700 40,500
Surface Water 14,700 15,400 17,000
Groundwater  36,500 22,300 13,100
Effluent UNK UNK 11,300
Indian Total 1,550 1,550 1,550
Navajo      
Surface Water 1,200 1,200 1,200
Hopi      
Surface Water 350 350 350
TOTAL 52,750 39,250 42,950

Described below is historic agricultural irrigation information from investigations conducted by the Department in 1990 and 1994.  In the summer of 2008, staff from the USGS conducted a survey of agricultural lands in the planning area. Preliminary information from this survey is also discussed below and summarized in Table 2.0-12. The survey found approximately 8,000 active (not fallow) acres irrigated during the 2008 growing season on non-tribal lands in the planning area.

Table 2.0-12 Active Agricultural Acres in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area (c. 2008)

Area Source Acres Crop Type Irrigation System
Heber REUSED WATER (CATALYST CORP) 1,691 ALFALFA FLOODED
272 SORGHUM
75 TREES
60 CORN
54 BARLEY
 Total    2,152    
Holbrook GROUNDWATER 41 RYE GRASS FLOODED
13 CORN/GRASS MIX
HOLBROOK RECLAIM WATER 62 ALFALFA FLOODED
 Total    115    
Joseph City INA GROUNDWATER 153 ALFALFA FLOODED
47 SPRINKLER
22 CENTER PIVOT
23 CORN FLOODED
88 RYE GRASS FLOODED
17 SPRINKLER
32 CENTER PIVOT
1 VEGETABLES FLOODED
 Total    383    
Show Low SURFACE WATER (SHOW LOW CREEK) 4 CORN FLOODED
259 GRASS FLOODED
 Total    263    
Snowflake GROUNDWATER 44 BARLEY FLOODED
35 SOD SPRINKLER
4 CENTER PIVOT
289 ALFALFA FLOODED
GROUND WATER / SURFACE WATER (SILVER CREEK LAKE) 95 BERMUDA GRASS FLOODED
203 CORN
45 GREENHOUSE
41 OATS
1,526 RYE GRASS
 Total    2,281    
Springerville SURFACE WATER (OTHER) 119 RYE GRASS FLOODED
2 VEGETABLES
SURFACE WATER FROM GREER RESERVOIR 29 ALFALFA FLOODED
1,101 RYE GRASS
2 VEGETABLES
 Total    1,253    
Saint Johns GROUNDWATER 101 SOD SPRINKLER
94 CENTER PIVOT
32 OATS FLOODED
19 ALFALFA
17 RYE GRASS
SURFACE WATER (LYMAN LAKE) 257 ALFALFA FLOODED
580 RYE GRASS
87 SUDAN GRASS
 Total    1,187    
Woodruff GROUNDWATER 243 ALFALFA FLOODED
SURFACE AND GROUNDWATER 162 RYE GRASS FLOODED
 Total    405    

Silver Creek Watershed-Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low, Snowflake

Several irrigation companies historically supplied agricultural irrigation water in the Show Low/Pinetop-Lakeside area. These included the Show Low, Pinetop-Woodlands, Woodlands and  Lakeside Irrigation Companies.  The irrigation season is limited and irrigated lands were used for pasture, orchards and gardens.  The Silver Creek Irrigation District operates in the communities of Shumway, Taylor and Snowflake. Historically, Silver Springs provided the majority of the surface water supply for the District. White Mountain Lake is the major water storage reservoir for the District.  The area is within the Silver Creek Watershed for which a Hydrographic Survey Report was filed with the Adjudication court in 1990.  At that time, almost 6,300 acres were irrigated with surface water and groundwater, using a total of almost 29,000 acre-feet per year (ADWR, 1990).

In 2008, the USGS observed 263 acres of primarily grass irrigation with water diverted from Show Low Creek in the Show Low area. In the Snowflake, Taylor, Shumway area, approximately 2,281 acres were irrigated with surface water from White Mountain Reservoir and with groundwater. The primary crop was rye grass.

Figure 2.0-19  Irrigation and Non-Irrigation Water Demand in the Joseph City INA

Figure 2.0-19

Joseph City Irrigation Non-Expansion Area (INA)

The Joseph City INA was established in 1980 by the Arizona Groundwater Management Act.  The area had previously been designated as a Critical Groundwater Area in 1974.  Designation of an area as an INA recognizes that there is “insufficient groundwater to provide a reasonably safe supply for the irrigation of the cultivated lands at the current rate of withdrawal” A.R.S. § 45-402(22).  Within an INA, irrigation with groundwater is restricted to lands that were irrigated prior to establishment of the area. Groundwater withdrawals by irrigation and large non-irrigation users, such as cities or golf-courses, must be reported annually to the Department.  Irrigation and non-irrigation uses (primarily the Cholla Generating Station), are shown in Figure 2.0-19.  Irrigation use in the INA had generally been between 2,000 and 4,000 acre-feet a year, served by the Joseph City Irrigation Company.  Irrigation use was not reported for 2006 and 2007.

In 2008, the USGS observed about 383 acres of active irrigation, primarily alfalfa, in the Joseph City INA.

Upper Little Colorado River-Springerville, Eagar, Nutrioso, Greer, Vernon, Saint Johns, Concho and Woodruff

The Department conducted an inventory of irrigation use in the Upper Little Colorado River watershed and published a report in 1994 (ADWR, 1994c).  The inventory divided the area into ten regions:  Nutrioso; Greer; Round Valley, including the Round Valley Water Users Association (Eagar) and Springerville Water Rights and Ditch Company; Vernon; Saint Johns including Lyman Water Company and the Saint Johns Irrigation Company; Concho, including Concho Water Company; Hunt; Hay Hollow; Woodruff, including the Woodruff Irrigation Company and Sanders.  At that time, 18,980 acres were irrigated with a total surface water and groundwater use of almost 35,000 acre-feet.  The biggest volumes of water use were in the Saint Johns area (6,600 acre-feet) and in the Hunt Valley area, located west of Saint Johns (3,800 acre-feet).  The cropped acres were primarily pasture.  No use was reported in the Sanders region.  As mentioned previously, the Zuni tribe has recently purchased and retired agricultural lands in the Hunt Valley area and near Saint Johns.

By the summer of 2008, the USGS observed  irrigation of approximately 2,271 acres in the area.  In the Springerville/Eager area 1,252 acres of primarily rye grass was irrigated with surface water. Irrigation water used at Eagar is conveyed via pipeline from the Greer Lakes. That summer, 1,187 acres of primarily rye grass and alfalfa was irrigated in the Saint Johns area with a combination of groundwater and surface water from Lyman Lake.  Southeast of Holbrook at Woodruff, another 405 acres of alfalfa and rye grass was observed irrigated with groundwater and surface water.

Lower Little Colorado River-Winslow, Holbrook, Heber, Flagstaff

The Department conducted an inventory of irrigation use in the Lower Little Colorado River watershed and published a report in 1994 (ADWR, 1994d).  Similar to the Upper Little Colorado River watershed inventory, the area was divided into four regions: Winslow, Holbrook, Heber and Flagstaff.  At the time of the inventory, (excluding the Joseph City Irrigation Company located in the Joseph City INA), about 3,700 acres were actively irrigated with a combination of 10,600 acre-feet of surface water and groundwater.  Use was reported in three of the regions: 4,380 AFA at Winslow; 3,300 AFA at Heber; and 2,900 AFA at Holbrook.  Pasture and alfalfa were the primary crops grown. No irrigation was reported in the Flagstaff region.

By the summer of 2008, the USGS found that irrigation had ceased at Winslow, although in 2007 the City of Winslow reported that 1,000 acre-feet of effluent was applied to forage crops at a farm leased by the city.  At Heber, 1,691 acres of alfalfa, 272 acres of sorghum and 189 acres of trees, corn and barley were irrigated with water discharged from the Catalyst Paper Mill. Irrigation had diminished in the Holbrook area with about 115 acres of rye grass, corn and alfalfa irrigated with a mix of groundwater (53 acres) and effluent (62 acres).

 

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