Exploring the impact of groundwater regulation and surface water availability on groundwater levels and pumping in Arizona

Danielle Taydych1, Laura Condon1
1Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona

Surface water and groundwater are deeply connected in Arizona through both natural exchanges and human systems. As surface water is a scarce and heavily regulated resource in most of the state, groundwater wells have been utilized to help compensate for surface water shortages. This is especially important during times of drought and where surface water is inaccessible. Although there are clear short-term economic benefits to using groundwater, increased demand stemming from accelerating well construction, persistent drought and limited or nonexistent historical regulation has resulted in the over-pumping of aquifers. Currently Arizona is divided into many different regulatory regions – AMA’s, INA’s, Irrigation Districts, American Indian Reservations and unregulated areas – with varying access to surface water. The impact of these regulatory regions on groundwater is still unclear. Here I present a retrospective analysis of groundwater wells in Arizona to determine how well densities and pumping volumes have changed over time in these five groundwater regulation areas. Datasets from the Arizona Department of Water Resources such as Wells55 and GWSI are used in this study. Groundwater is an exceptionally valuable resource in the state, so by tracking well evolution and regulation trends, we can draw important conclusions about crop production and other economic patterns. A study conducted by the ADWR revealed 25% of wells in Arizona have exhibited a decline of 100ft or more. Given the importance of this invaluable resource, it is necessary to have a full understanding of the history of groundwater wells in the state.

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