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At Least 2 Well-Metering Bills At Arizona Capitol

Multiple bills in the Arizona Legislature are tackling well metering due to the lack of groundwater regulation outside of central Arizona. 

This comes after a series of recent reports in the Arizona Republic  showing large industrial farms in rural counties are drilling deeper wells, but these companies are not required to disclose exactly how much water they are pumping.

Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) is  proposing a billto let the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources require a meter on wells outside of “ Active Management Areas,” which govern the central part of the state. The director could also require an annual report.

Kavanagh said it's the first step in addressing overuse.

“Everybody’s saying we don’t have the information. So this gets the information,” he said. “Then nobody has an excuse not to act. People can’t be willfully blind in the face of a possible impending water crisis for some residents of our state. And I feel sorry for those residents.”

Meanwhile,  a bill from Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson) would simply require well meters outright for large-scale irrigation.

Kavanagh said he had not spoken to House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) about his bill and didn't know if he supported it. Bowers told the Associated Press last week  he was concerned about overdrafting.

"If nothing else, this will start the conversation and maybe it will cause this to be placed into one of the other water bills that are moving forward," Kavanagh said. "But you can't stay willfully blind. There's no excuse for that."

Rep. Regina Cobb (R-Kingman) said she will soon propose a bill to create an additional regulatory tool called a rural management area.

"I don't even want to reduce agricultural growth if it can be recharged. If it's not recharging, we've got an issue. If it's taking away from municipalities that have been there already, we've got an issue. If it takes away from their growth and development, we've got an issue," she said. "So we have to look at all those parameters and come together with a decision for that community. And I think that's where a rural management area works."

Bret Jaspers was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2017 to 2020.