U.S. Water News Online
PHOENIX-- Attempts to solve rural Arizona's water problems
are complicated by the wide range of issues facing rural communities,
but officials say there are still ways state lawmakers and regulators
Two of the most frequently mentioned solutions are requiring
developers to prove a 100-year assured supply of water exists for the
houses they want to build and giving local governments more authority
to manage growth.
Other ideas will emerge from the communities but proposals will
also have to pass muster with interests as disparate as
environmentalists and advocates of private-property rights.
"It's not going to be done the way some in rural Arizona want,
which is to say, 'Just leave us alone,"' Buzz Walker, Payson's public
works director, told The Arizona Republic, which published a
three-day series this week on rural water issues. "It's all
interconnected in water. When you step on someone's toe here, someone
says `Ouch!' 300 miles away."
Many state and local officials agree that making the 100-year
water-supply rule mandatory would give rural communities a tool to
manage water and growth, which is putting strain on water supplies.
"We need somewhere along the line to connect land development with
water availability," said Rep. Tom O'Halleran, R-Sedona. "Any attempt
to manage water without taking growth into account is meaningless."
Linking growth to water availability is rare outside state-defined
groundwater management areas. Incorporated towns and cities can
impose rules using zoning laws, but counties and small towns that
rely on private water companies can't deny subdivisions based solely
on water availability.
That has led to the spread of "wildcat subdivisions," where
landowners avoid stricter zoning laws by subdividing property into
five or fewer parcels.
Some incorporated communities have had success developing their
For example, Payson and Prescott Valley require developers of any
new project to provide the water supply.
The state is encouraging that sort of local approach.
The Department of Water Resources helps fund 17 regional
partnerships that blanket the state from Kingman to Benson. Some of
those partnerships have achieved successes.
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