Framing the Issues Associated with Groundwater Governance and Agriculture in the United States
University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center
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Groundwater use in the United States is governed by a mosaic of state approaches, which may differ by water use sector and regions within a state. The presentation will first consider the question: What is sustainable groundwater in agriculture? It will then address key issues associated with groundwater governance, drawing upon analysis and initial national survey work on the variation in approaches for address groundwater quantity and quality across the United States. Using Arizona as a location within the Colorado River Basin, the presentation will address opportunities and obstacles to developing pathways to sustainable water use, communities, and agriculture. In the context of groundwater regulations and/or lack thereof, the presentation will examine key factors determining groundwater availability and use. These factors include drought, differential priorities to surface water supplies, aquifer recharge and water banking programs, use of reclaimed water by agriculture, and municipal and industrial development (including solar fields). State and regional governance and policies related to agricultural water demand and conservation will be discussed. In the context of Arizona’s groundwater regulations and Colorado River water supply conditions, programs of the Central Arizona Project provide interesting examples of the complex interrelationships of surface water supplies and groundwater use by the agricultural and municipal sectors. Though the policy elements to addressing projected gaps in water supply and demand are similar regionally, nationally, and even internationally, actual solution pathways will depend on local and regional governance frameworks and other circumstances. The presentation will conclude by highlighting the importance of robust stakeholder engagement and input in developing these pathways.