Matt Clark: Drought contingency plan fails to conserve Arizona’s precious rivers

The DCP gives no love to the San Pedro, nor for that matter to any of our state’s other beleaguered rivers, like the Verde River, whose still-perennial waters support myriad wildlife and the economies of rural Arizona communities.

Do we want any of our remaining living rivers to go the way of the Santa Cruz? Most Arizonans would say “absolutely not!” And yet, here we are.

We desperately need to modernize Arizona’s water laws to be able to sustain gems like the San Pedro and Verde rivers, and to revive cultural and economic treasures such as the Santa Cruz.

One solid step in the right direction is to pass legislation to recognize “ecological water” as a beneficial use under Arizona’s existing water laws.

This addition would protect existing property rights and allow for the voluntary transfer of water rights for the benefit of our rivers, their ecosystems and the many communities and businesses that rely upon these values.

If you care about the future of our rivers, it’s urgent for you to call on your state legislators now to hold a public hearing for SB 1370 and HB 2630 this week, lest conservation of our living rivers be omitted from our leaders’ water agenda yet again.

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AZ Daily Star: Second lawsuit filed over massive Vigneto project in Benson

“The plaintiffs in the lawsuit — the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson Audubon Society, Maricopa Audubon Society and Cascabel Conservation Association — say the development’s water use will drain surface water flows along the San Pedro River and St. David Cienega, and harm millions of migratory birds, including listed species. . . .

Bird- and wildlife-watching is a $1.4 billion industry in Arizona, said Nicole Gillett, conservation advocate for the Tucson Audubon Society, one of the plaintiffs.

“The San Pedro, being the unique habitat that it is for the whole of the Southwest of the United States, is a big draw for birders,” she said. “Any kind of water drawdown will not only damage the habitat and the species reliant on it, but we might also see fewer eco-tourists as a result of that degraded habitat.

“We all benefit from whole and healthy ecosystems,” she said. “It’s not just birds and wildlife. These are resources that, in the end, are going to be our legacy for our kids and anyone that moves to Arizona.”

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AZ Daily Star - Arizona drought plan pushes unsustainable growth, farming practices

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“But for longtime Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr, the plan, far from being groundbreaking, represents another run at “business as usual” for the state. As the Arizona version of the drought plan is now written, she says it’s propping up what she sees as unsustainable growth and unsustainable farming practices.

As the plan is now conceived, Pinal County farms and Phoenix-area cities along with the Tohono O’Odham and Gila River tribes, would give up some or a good deal of their CAP supplies.

But farms would get at least $18 million in state subsidies to build new wells and other infrastructure to pump groundwater in its place. The cities would not lose any of their highest-priority CAP water until Lake Mead drops more than 50 feet lower than it is today.

Here are some questions and answers from Bahr about the drought plan, which is being pushed to meet a Jan. 31 federal deadline to enact it.”

AZ Capitol Times - Democrats: Water plan missing conservation requirement

“House Democrats are balking at ratifying a proposed drought contingency plan over what they see as a key missing element.

Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez said Thursday many of her members question why there’s nothing in the proposal to require more water conservation.

Instead, it is more focused on finding ways to move water around, particularly to meet the needs of Pinal County farmers. But the Yuma Democrat said that does not deal with the underlying problem that Arizona is using more water than is naturally available.”

AZ Foothillls Magazine: Arizona Capitol Museum to Exhibit the Paintings of Tony Winters: Renegades-Arizona's Undammed Rivers

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The Arizona Capitol Museum (AZCM) is proud to present nationally recognized landscape artist Tony Winters' new collection of oil paintings "Renegades: Arizona's Undammed Rivers." The title refers to the last two rivers in Arizona that have never been dammed. This series portrays the Upper Verde and the San Pedro, Arizona's last remaining wild rivers. Winters documents the remote desert rivers as they appear today, from the Mexican border crossing to the rugged canyons of Yavapai County . . . The exhibition will open with a private event on Thursday, October 25th (opening to the public on October 26) and run through the end of December 2018.

Pinal Central Opinion: Danger in Water Ruling

Arizona has done a pretty good job of dealing with scant water supplies up to now, realizing that more and more people want to live in this desert climate. Two of the biggest parts of that planning were the passage of groundwater reform nearly 40 years ago and the receipt of Colorado River water from the Central Arizona Project soon after. On Wednesday, however, an Arizona Supreme Court decision cast a shadow over the status quo . . . 

Environmentalists long have rallied behind the San Pedro, the last free-flowing, year-round river in the Southwest. This is important, but so is proper planning that will affect the future of state residents.

Areas outside Arizona’s “active management areas” have less oversight under the 1980 groundwater law. But they need more as the state grows, developments are proposed and groundwater is further taxed. Plaintiffs in the case plan to pursue a remedy in federal court, which may help. Arizona, however, needs to do more to protect its water supplies. The state should have more legislation that enhances its ability to plan for the future. That will take some bipartisanship and foresight, the kind that helped get Arizona to the place it’s in today.

Arizona Republic Opinion: This Arizona Supreme Court ruling could hurt a lot more than Sierra Vista's water supply

Opinion, Linda Valdez, Arizona Republic: "Arizona water laws do not allow the state to plan long term. If you value your faucet and your home's value, that must change . . . A court decision that some say could dry up the San Pedro River may sound far removed from your CAP-supplied kitchen faucet. It’s not. In fact, Thursday's unfortunate ruling shows how Arizona's current water law threatens the value of your entire home, not just your faucet . . . The ruling ignores consumer and environmental needs. Now it's up to lawmakers to clarify the law so the courts and developers understand the need to look at the whole picture when making decisions about water. The court identified other things that need fixing. Arizona law does not have a statewide requirement for developments to demonstrate adequate water supply. It should. Arizona law does not require developers to warn consumers when higher priority water rights may impact the water supply in the homes they buy. It should. Rural Arizona has a right to grow and pursue economic development, but that should happen under water rules that protect the entire state."

AZ Daily Star: 5 takeaways from the water-rights ruling over a planned Sierra Vista development

While most hydrologists — those who study the science of water — agree that groundwater pumping can dry up surface flows, courts and legislatures haven’t turned that principle into law . . . Efforts to protect rivers from water pumping in the Legislature, all unsuccessful, date back to the time when Rose Mofford was governor back in the late 1980s, said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter. “There was a riparian task force. There have been bills that included limits on groundwater pumping within one-quarter mile of riparian areas. Those were defeated by cattle growers and others,” Bahr said. Just this year, a bill dealing with the ecological value of water failed to get a hearing. “We have consistently asked the state to recognize the connections between ground and surface water. Our laws violate the laws of physics,” Bahr said.

Gerrodette and Kiser: New partnerships, ways of thinking for Arizona's water future

"The cornerstone element that seems to be missing, at least publicly during this critical first stage of water discussions in a time of emergency, is the legal framework protecting ecological water — water allocated for rivers to sustain themselves, plants, animals, people and society. Without it — protecting ecological water is like creating a household budget — what is to keep us from spending beyond our means: dewatering our rivers, in the face of development, thereby endangering future generations — life itself?