Valuing the World's Most Extracted Natural Resource
By Warren Tenney
Life as we know it would be impossible without groundwater. It is the world's most extracted natural resource, and it supports our ecosystems, which is why we can never take groundwater for granted. National Groundwater Awareness Week (March 8-14) is the perfect time to elevate the importance of groundwater, not only around the world and across the United States, but right here at home in Arizona.
To highlight National Groundwater Awareness Week, we want to reemphasize the importance of groundwater in Arizona, celebrate the accomplishments of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, and discuss growing concerns over groundwater depletion in our State. We discussed those elements in this year’s three-part series and wanted to highlight some key takeaways.
Groundwater: What is it and Why Does it Matter?
Groundwater is one of our most valuable resources, even though you probably never see it or even realize it is there.
- It is different than surface water that flows in more visible channels such as streams, rivers, reservoirs, and lakes.
- Groundwater is a valuable resource that is finite and once it is pumped, it is gone.
- Groundwater accounts for 40 percent of our total statewide water use.
- While some natural groundwater replenishment may occur from precipitation, river, and lakes, the impact of those sources is minimal here in our desert climate.
- The majority of any replenishment that occurs in Arizona is done by storing or recharging surface water underground.
- Depleting groundwater can cause negative consequences such as: causing aquifers to shrink and dry up • the drying up of wells • reduction of water in nearby streams and rivers • land subsidence (sinking) • cracks or fissures.
The 1980 Groundwater Management Act: A Monumental Piece of Legislation That is Still Relevant 40 Years Later
The passing of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act (GMA) was monumental for many reasons.
- Conservation requirements were mandated for municipalities, agriculture, and industry.
- Growth in the Phoenix and Tucson areas could only occur with a demonstration of a 100-year assured water supply.
- Federal funding to construct the Central Arizona Project was secured, ensuring a critical new water source for the Central and Southern Arizona.
- Cities within the AMAs, like the AMWUA cities, diversified their water supplies, expanded infrastructure, created conservation programs and developed underground storage.
- AMWUA cities collectively now utilize only about five percent groundwater.
Groundwater: The Growing Challenges
We must build upon the successes of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act to ensure it is strengthened, not weakened.
- Ensure groundwater is available for when we may need it most.
- Utilize alternative and renewable water sources, like surface water supplies, and continue to explore innovative ways to ensure reclaimed water is being utilized to its full potential.
- Address a variety of challenges and their impact to overall groundwater management such as: drought • shortages on the Colorado River • understanding the allowable groundwater pumping within the AMAs • addressing the hydrologic disconnect between storage & recovery • new & viable water supply options • growing obligations for CAGRD • adequate funding for ADWR
Learn more about National Groundwater Awareness Week
For over 50 years, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.
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