By Mohave County District 1 Supervisor Travis Lingenfelter
Mohave County needs an INA
I am Travis Lingenfelter. I am a County Supervisor representing District 1 on the Board of Supervisors for Mohave County. We have an opportunity to make a real difference for current Kingmanites and our future generations to be good stewards of the water we all depend on for our lives and livelihoods.
The Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin is careening toward the same problem that has already affected many areas of the state — the overdraft of the Kingman region’s groundwater resource if California and international corporate agriculture is allowed to continue to expand. If we collectively act now, we can protect the groundwater basin by drawing the line as to future expansion of irrigated acreage in the Hualapai Basin.
At the current rates of withdrawal, we are withdrawing almost 31,000 acre feet of water every year in excess of what is being recharged back to the aquifer. We have only 10,700 acre feet per year coming into the aquifer. We have 41,600 acre feet per year coming out every year as of 2022 — and an estimated 60% of that is to support California and international agriculture. Every year, our Hualapai Valley Groundwater aquifer shrinks by 31,000 acre feet. Of that, 26,000 acre feet is agricultural pumping. One acre foot is 326,000 gallons, so 26,000 acre feet is 8.7 billions gallons of groundwater being pumped out annually in 2022 to support California and international corporate agriculture. Establishing an Irrigation Non-Expansion Area (INA) is one tool we have under existing state law to conserve the groundwater that remains in the Hualapai Valley Basin for those who already have invested in the Kingman region for many generations.
There currently are 8,400 acres being farmed by California and international corporate agriculture. Collectively they own almost 78,000 acres. Without an INA, more than 69,000 additional acres that are owned by corporate farming entities could be turned into irrigated agriculture. There is not sufficient groundwater to provide a reasonably safe supply for irrigation of the existing 8,400 acres of California and international farms in 2022, let alone additional irrigation acreage.
Mohave County and Kingman area residents deserve to have their only water supply protected. In making a determination whether to create an INA, the statutes require ADWR to give full consideration to public comment and to recommendations made by local political subdivisions. Mohave County is the largest political subdivision affected by this decision. It is our recommendation that an INA be created now. The City of Kingman is the second largest political subdivision affected by this decision. The City stands in lockstep with Mohave County in attempting to protect the long term health, safety and welfare of our citizens. We cannot afford to wait until it is too late.
For years now, the Board of Supervisors has been monitoring this issue and, for years now, the Board has been sounding the alarm. What we have seen is that the number of non-exempt wells (greater than 35gpm) for agricultural use has skyrocketed. From 2013 to 2014, the number of wells in the Hualapai Basin increased from 98 to 132 wells. By 2016, when the County first expressed alarm, there were 144 non-exempt wells. By 2020, the non-exempt well count had increased to 181 wells. Sixteen of these corporate agricultural wells are far larger than any of the municipal wells owned by the City of Kingman, each capable of pumping over 4,000,000 gallons per day. And, the increase continues today. In seven years, we have seen nearly a 100% increase in the number of large wells withdrawing water from the Haulapai Valley Groundwater Basin.
The ADWR Director should take into consideration the fact that the Board of Supervisors and Mohave County, the largest political subdivision affected by this decision, and the Kingman City Council and City of Kingman have been vocal about the issues for many years, and their request is not some fickle “flash in the pan” or “flavor of the day” request. Maybe it is already too late. Maybe the failure to act has already put this basin at risk. We need to stop waiting for a crisis to try to fix this problem.
As Director Buschatzke indicated in his June 24, 2022, letter to the County, we now have an updated USGS MODFLOW model indicating a much higher risk of groundwater depletion due to the large-scale irrigation in the Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin. This model shows what Mohave County and the City of Kingman instinctively knew in 2016 and 2020, and provides an additional basis for ADWR to form the INA. The continued growth of irrigated agriculture will suck the life out of this basin in a very short period of time if left unchecked.
Finally, if the current and projected drought conditions have taught us nothing else, we cannot take our water resources for granted. We must protect the Kingman region’s primary groundwater supply now. It is our strong recommendation that an INA be created now. We cannot afford to wait. Please join us in advocating strongly for the INA by attending and submitting public comment to ADWR during the INA public hearing on November 12, 2022 from 1:00 PM — 5:00 PM, or by submitting written comments to ADWR asking them to implement the INA.