Arizona was a forerunner in adopting groundwater laws aimed at preserving this vital resource.

The laws, though, are from a different era, one before prolonged regional drought made the unregulated groundwater areas of Arizona’s desert an unlikely but highly desirable place to expand agriculture.

In Parker today, the state Water Resources Department is meeting with LaPaz County supervisors about groundwater in LaPaz county that is benefiting others, but not LaPaz County.

One issue deals with the City of Scottsdale purchase of LaPaz County land in 2013 to beef up the city’s water reserves and to water golf courses. The second, which came to light last fall, is a Saudi Arabian farming operation that sucks up the water for hay that is then sent back to Saudi Arabia.

These kinds of situations aren’t really contemplated in Arizona’s 1970s-era laws. The groundwater law calls for tight regulation of groundwater in five Active Management Areas. The rest of the state, including LaPaz County, is relatively unregulated.

Mohave County is included in the unregulated areas and is also becoming the site of large farming operations.

In addition to other large farm purchases around the county, a California nut company, apparently fleeing tight drought-induced water regulation in California, bought land east of Kingman and may use more than 20,000-acre-feet of groundwater annually.

Arizona’s groundwater is a scarce and valuable resource and its overuse is unsustainable.

While it is always difficult to advocate new laws and regulations, updated laws need to reflect the situation of the times.

Arizona cannot afford areas outside of Active Management Areas to be the wild west of water deals, a place where access to whole aquifers is obtained for the low purchase price of desert land and a drilled well.

Mohave and LaPaz counties are examples of two locations where agricultural use of land, particularly those larger than 100 acres, needs to be restrained.

— Today’s News-Herald

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