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Water Resource Issues in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area - Issue Surveys

Population growth and associated concerns about sustainable water supplies, water level declines, increased agricultural demand and environmental protection activities have resulted in groundwater studies, regional planning actions, establishment of conservation easements and other activities in the planning area.

Water resource issues have been identified in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area by community watershed groups, through the distribution of surveys, and from other sources.  Primary issues identified are the lack of sufficient data to make informed water management decisions, legal issues related to surface water availability and the legal nature of water supplies, endangered species act implications, and concerns about whether there will be sufficient water supplies to meet future demand.  A number of water systems have reported concerns about aging infrastructure and the lack of financial resources to make capital improvements.

Issue Surveys

The Department conducted a rural water resources survey in 2003 to compile information for the public and help identify the needs of growing communities. This survey was also intended to gather information on drought impacts for incorporation into the Arizona Drought Preparedness Plan, adopted in 2004.  Questionnaires were sent to almost 600 water providers, jurisdictions, counties and tribes.  The Department completed a report of the findings from the survey in 2004 (ADWR, 2004).

There were 29 water provider and jurisdiction respondents in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area, and 14 numerically ranked issues. Respondents were asked to rank eighteen issues. Infrastructure issues, which include well capacity problems and inadequate capital to pay for infrastructure improvements, were ranked among the top five issues by half of respondents.  Future water supply concerns also ranked relatively high (Table 3.0-16). In a separate question, about half of respondents noted at least one drought impact.  Primary drought impacts noted were increased demand, increased peak demand and lowered groundwater levels.

Table 3.0-16 Water Resource Issues in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area
Issue Percent of 2003 respondents that ranked issue as one of the top 5 (of 18) Percent of 2004 respondents reporting issue was a moderate or major concern
Inadequate storage capacity to meet peak demand 21% 34%
Inadequate well capacity to meet peak demand  50 25
Inadequate water supplies to meet current demand 14 20
Inadequate water supplies to meet future demand 36 32
Infrastructure in need of replacement 36 41
Inadequate capital to pay for infrastructure improvements 50 61
Drought related water supply problems 29 39

The Department conducted another, more concise survey of water providers in 2004.  This was done to supplement the information gathered in the previous year in support of developing the Arizona Water Atlas, and to reach a wider audience by directly contacting each water provider. Through this effort, 55 water providers in the planning area, with a total of approximately 46,900 service connections, were willing to participate and provide information on water supply, demand, infrastructure and to rank a list of seven issues.

Water providers were asked to rank issues from 0 to 4 with 0 = no concern, 1 = minor concern, 2 = moderate concern and 3 = major concern. Of the 55 water providers that responded to the survey, 44 ranked issues. These respondents include many of the largest water providers in the planning area including Bella Vista Water Company (Sierra Vista), City of Benson, City of Douglas, Gila Resources/Safford, Town of Kearny, Pueblo del Sol Water Company (Sierra Vista) and the City of Willcox. 

Although responses to the 2003 questionnaire are not directly comparable to the 2004 survey due to differences in the form and wording of the surveys, responses to issues are similar as shown in Table 3.0-16.  The 2004 responses indicate that inadequate capital for infrastructure improvements is an overwhelming concern in the planning area. Other infrastructure issues and drought also ranked high. 



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